The German economy, the biggest in the 12-country euro zone, expanded by 1.7 percent in real or price-adjusted terms in 2004, the federal statistics office Destatis said on Thursday. It was the strongest rate of growth since 2000, the office said in a statement. In 2003, German GDP had contracted marginally by 0.1 percent. Booming exports and the favorable constellation of public holidays last year helped the German economy, put in its strongest performance in four years in 2004, official data showed on Thursday. Nevertheless, after three years of stagnation, the turnaround in Germany's economic fortunes was not enough to bring about any improvement in the country's troubled public finances and the German public deficit remained well above EU limits, the data showed.