Thursday, results of a closely watched survey showed that the German consumer morale is set to show a slight deterioration in April despite too many negative reports regarding economic development. French households' confidence about the economy remained unchanged in March amid expectations that the lingering economic crisis will push unemployment higher. In the UK, retail sales in February grew at the slowest pace since 1995 as consumers reduced their spending amid fears of deepening recession and rising unemployment.
Eurozone M3 money supply rose 5.9% on a yearly basis in February, a report from the European Central Bank showed Thursday. Annual growth slowed from January's 6% increase. However, the growth rate stood above 5.5% rise expected by economists. In a note, Commerzbank analyst Michael Schubert said the recession in the euro area again reflected in the monetary data.
Signaling that policymakers across the Atlantic stand ready to tackle the lingering financial crisis more aggressively, European Central Bank Vice President Lucas Papademos said the ECB may extend of the maturity of liquidity provided to banks and purchase private debt securities in the secondary market.
German consumer confidence index is forecasting a value of 2.4 points for April, down from a revised 2.5 points reported in March, a survey conducted by the GfK market research group showed Thursday. Economists were expecting a reading of 2.5 for April.
Rating agency Fitch confirmed Germany's long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Rating at 'AAA' and gave a stable outlook for both the ratings.
The French statistical office INSEE said its consumer confidence indicator was stable at minus 43 in March, while the expected level was minus 44.
The number of unemployed people in France increased 79,900 to 2,384,800 in February, the Labor Ministry reported late Wednesday. In February, unemployed jobseekers climbed 3.5% from the previous month and rose 19% from February 2008. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said she expects things to be tough in months ahead.
Italian economic think tank ISAE said its business confidence indicator fell to an all time low of 59.8 in March from 63.2 recorded in February. Economists had expected a reading of 63.
Italy recorded a trade deficit of EUR0.72 billion with the non-EU countries in February, smaller than a deficit of EUR1.31 billion recorded in the previous year, a report by the country's statistical agency ISTAT said.
The latest report by the Netherlands' Central Bureau of Statistics said the gross domestic product or GDP declined 0.6% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, matching the initial estimate announced on February 13. This is the first decline of GDP in more than five years. The agency also said business confidence increased 2.1 points to minus 20.8 in March from a record low of minus 22.9 in February. Further, household spending on goods and services, adjusted for price changes, increased 0.4% annually in January.
Ireland's Central Statistical Office said in a report that the gross domestic product or GDP at constant prices dropped 7.1% sequentially in the fourth quarter, in contrast to a 1.1% rise recorded in the previous quarter.
Rest of Europe
In a report, the Office for National Statistics said retail sales volume recorded an annual increase of 0.4% in February, which was the weakest growth since September 1995. Annual growth stood much below 2.5% rise expected by economists.
David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce said consumers are beginning to feel the pinch. Today's worrying retail sales numbers confirmed the depth of recession, indicating that GDP in the first quarter of this year will register a further sharp drop.
The ONS also reported that UK's total business investment declined 1.5% sequentially to GBP 34.95 billion in the final three months of 2008, revised up from a 3.9% fall reported initially.
The Swiss economy is set to shrink 2.4% in 2009, the Zürich-based research institute KOF said. In December last year, the think tank had projected a contraction of 0.5% for this year.
Statistics Estonia said the trade deficit stood at EEK1.57 billion in January, narrowing from an EEK3.07 billion deficit in the previous month. The deficit was the smallest since January 2005.
Statistics Denmark said the jobless rate increased to a seasonally adjusted 2.5% in February from 2.3% in the previous month. The jobless rate matched economists' expectations.
The Czech National bank kept its key interest rate unchanged at 1.75%. The decision came in line with economists' expectations. In February, the two-week repo rate was lowered by 50 basis points from 2.25%.
The International Monetary Fund reached in an agreement with Serbia for a EUR 3 billion-aid package. The 27-month deal replaces EUR 520 million approved earlier this year. An amount of EUR 2.2 billion will be provided in 2009.
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