The German economy, Europe's biggest, gathered momentum in the first three months of 2014, expanding by 0.8 percent, official data showed on Thursday. That represented an acceleration from the preceding quarter, when gross domestic product (GDP) had grown by 0.4 percent, the federal statistics office said in a statement. Analysts had been pencilling in an increase of around 0.7 percent in the period from January to March. The pick-up was driven exclusively by booming domestic demand, the statisticians said. The "extremely mild winter weather also played a role," since it benefitted key sectors such as construction, Destatis said. "Private households and the government increased spending at the start of the year," the statement said. "The trend in investment was also positive, with a sharp increase in investment in both construction and equipment." In addition, companies built up their stockpiles, which had a positive effect on growth. "By contrast, net foreign trade weighed on growth. According to preliminary calculations, exports were down at the beginning of the year, while there was a sharp increase in imports compared with the fourth quarter of 2013," Destatis said. Growth also picked up on a 12-month basis, with GDP expanding by 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the corresponding period a year earlier. "That is the sharpest increase in more than two years," Destatis said.