United States loses sparkle as Europe shows signs of hope

Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:10am EDT
 
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By John O'Donnell

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Investors will cast a wary eye on the latest gauges of the United States' economic health this week, while troubled Europe shows early signs of turning the corner.

As finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 top economies gather in Washington, on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund's Spring meeting, they view a subdued global landscape where even the United States' prospects seem tarnished.

For a change, however, there are reasons for hope in the euro currency bloc, despite still low growth and high unemployment.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will be able to claim an early success in the bank's fledgling money printing program with figures on Friday set to confirm that falling prices throughout the 19-country euro zone are beginning to stabilize. Bank lending too is improving.

"We're seeing the opposite of 2014," said Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING bank. "Now there are more doubts about the U.S. and China than the euro zone."

The ECB's long-awaited scheme to buy 60 billion euros a month of chiefly government bonds is also helping to steady nerves in wrangling with debt-strapped Greece.

Greece has until mid-week to improve a package of reforms required for the release of euro zone loans that it needs to stay afloat, and that will be a hot topic in Washington.

Were Greece to tumble out of the currency union, it could upset an already delicate global picture where even the U.S. economy, a beacon of economic strength, is losing some of its shine.   Continued...

 
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 9, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid