The euro zone economy jumped out of recession in the third quarter, data showed on Friday, but with slightly less spring than expected after the area's top three economies fell short of market forecasts.

Gross domestic product in the 16 countries using the euro rose 0.4 percent quarter-on-quarter after five consecutive quarters of shrinking output, but was 4.1 percent lower year-on-year.

Economists polled by Reuters had on average forecast quarterly growth of 0.5 percent and a 3.9 percent annual decline.

Germany, France and Italy all reported a third-quarter increase in economic output, but the German 0.7 percent quarterly growth was below expectations of 0.8 percent, the French 0.3 percent increase only half of what was expected and the Italian 0.6 percent fell short of the 0.7 percent consensus.

The growth ends the deepest economic downturn in Europe since World War Two, brought on by a global financial crisis, but economists say recovery is likely to remain fragile.

The European Commission forecast on November 3 that fourth-quarter growth would slow to 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter in the last three months of 2009 and then to 0.1 percent in the first two quarters of 2010.

Growth is seen accelerating steadily from the third quarter of 2010 to reach 0.5 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, editing by Dale Hudson)