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Lending Still Weak In Slack Eurozone Economy

The eurozone crisis over governments with too much debt is increasingly about lagging growth and less about financial panic. European Central Bank steadied financial markets with its announcement Sept. 6 that it was willing to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds issued by indebted countries, if those countries ask for help and agree to take steps to reduce their debt levels.

Such bond purchases would lower the borrowing costs those countries face in bond markets and give them breathing space to sort out their finances. Stocks, bonds and the euro have rallied since the ECB unveiled its plans.

Yet the better mood has not passed on to business executives.

"Businesses are not seeing as many reasons to feel more upbeat after the ECB's announcement... as financial markets," said Diron.

Other indicators point down as well, even in the region's strongest economies. Germany's Ifo survey of 7,000 businesses fell for the sixth month in a row in October and companies are warning about sales.

Mass-market carmakers are struggling as high unemployment dries up demand for less expensive cars, particularly in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. France's PSA Peugeot Citroen is closing its Aulnay plant and ending 8,000 jobs, while Ford Motor Co. said this week it would close a major plant in Genk, Belgium, resulting in 9,500 direct and indirect job losses, as well as two facilities in Britain with 1,500 workers.

All this bodes ill for Europe's quest to find a permanent end to its debt crisis. Growth is the quickest way to reduce debt because it increases government tax revenue and shrinks the size of the debt relative to the economy. Statistics this week showed average levels of eurozone government debt reached 90 percent of annual economic output for the first time in the history of the euro.

In a more upbeat sign for Europe, bank deposits have been recovering in Greece and Spain, suggesting easing fears of an imminent break-up of the eurozone.

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