Euro-area eco­nomic con­fi­dence jumps to high­est level since 2011


BERLIN: Euro-area eco­nomic con­fi­dence in­creased more than an­a­lysts fore­cast in March, eas­ing pres­sure on the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank to take ac­tion next week to counter low in­fla­tion and spur growth. An in­dex of ex­ec­u­tive and con­sumer sen­ti­ment rose to 102.4 from 101.2 in Fe­bru­ary, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in Brussels said on Fri­day. That beat the me­dian es­ti­mate in a Bloomberg News sur­vey of 31 econ­o­mists and is the high­est read­ing since July 2011. ECB Pres­i­dent Mario Draghi said on March 25 that the Frankfurt-based cen­tral bank's ac­com­moda­tive mon­e­tary pol­icy should be in­creas­ingly felt through­out the eu­ro­zone econ­omy as dis­rup­tions in the fi­nan­cial sys­tem wane. The Gov­ern­ing Coun­cil will keep its bench­mark in­ter­est rate at a record low of 0.25 per cent next week, ac­cord­ing to a sep­a­rate Bloomberg sur­vey. Ger­man in­fla­tion slowed to 0.9 per cent in March from one per cent in Fe­bru­ary, in line with econ­o­mists' es­ti­mates, while con­sumer prices in Spain un­ex­pect­edly de­clined 0.2 per cent this month, data from the coun­tries' sta­tis­tics of­fices showed on Fri­day. In­dus­trial con­fi­dence rose to mi­nus 3.3 from mi­nus 3.5 in Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to Fri­day's Euro­stat re­port. That fol­lows data by Markit Eco­nom­ics Ltd show­ing that a gauge of man­u­fac­tur­ing out­put fell to a three-month low in March. Con­fi­dence in the ser­vices in­dus­try in­creased to 4.2 from 3.3 in Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to Fri­day's re­port. Con­sumer sen­ti­ment im­proved to mi­nus 9.3 from mi­nus 12.7. Still, the euro area is strug­gling to shake off the legacy of a debt cri­sis that sparked a record-long re­ces­sion and pushed the un­em­ploy­ment rate to an all-time high.

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