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Euro zone bank lending rises
26 Feb 2015 15:03
Bank lending in the euro zone fell slightly in January but at a slower pace than a month earlier.
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This suggests the euro zone economy may be turning a corner as consumer morale picks up in the bloc's largest economies.
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European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said that "all in all, the outlook is more positive than it was a few months ago" in the euro zone, which has been blighted by recession in the south and falling prices.
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Sparse lending to firms continues to dog the economy, but data released by the ECB today showed the overall level of lending to households and firms in the euro zone fell by 0.1% in January from a year earlier.
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This follows a 0.5% drop in December. Lending in the euro zone has not risen since July 2012.
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German consumer sentiment jumped to its highest level in more than 13 years heading into March, a separate report showed, as low oil prices freed up consumer cash to spend on other things.
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Consumer confidence also hit a near three-year high in France this month and rose sharply in Italy, raising hopes for recovery of the stagnant economy.
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The more positive tone comes as the ECB prepares to start printing money to buy sovereign bonds next month - a policy measure aimed at perking up the economy and lifting inflation, which is running at -0.6% - back into positive territory.
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A European Commission report on today showed that confidence in the euro zone's economy strengthened for the second month in a row in February.
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There are also more positive signs from other countries in the south of the euro zone, which was battered by the bloc's debt crisis and is going through a painful period of structural change as it tries to shape up to regain competitiveness.
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Spain raised its 2015 economic growth forecast to 2.4% this week, from 2%, and said it could be higher.
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In Greece, however, the picture remains bleak. ECB data showed the level of deposits in Greek banks fell by €12.2 billion to €155.4 billion in January, its lowest level in years.
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A senior Greek banker, though, told Reuters today that more than €850m in deposits returned to Greek banks when they reopened this week after Athens secured a fourth-month extension to its financial rescue.
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