Contraction of activity eased at year's end, PMI shows: The contraction of activity slowed in the eurozone in December 2012, thanks to Germany, which returned to growth, and despite the continuing recession in France, Italy and Spain, according to Markit, the research firm that publishes the purchasing managers index. The PMI composite output index, published on 4 January, stood at 47.2 in the eurozone in December, only slightly below the initial estimate (47.3) and was a marked improvement over November (46.5). An index above 50 points signals expanding activity, while less than 50 points shows contraction. These results offer 'some hope that the eurozone is showing signs of lifting out of its deep double-dip recession,' said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit. He added that 'the December PMIs in the four main economies in the region showed that rates of decline are easing in France, Italy and Spain, while the economic situation stabilised in Germany'.

Lending to private sector still in decline in November: Lending to the private sector in the eurozone declined again in November 2012 for the seventh consecutive month, slipping by 0.8% and matching the October rate, according to figures released on 3 January by the European Central Bank (ECB). The October figure was lowered slightly from last month's ECB estimate of 0.7%. Lending to households remained stable compared with October at +0.4%, as did one of its components, mortgages (+1.2%), as well as loans to non-financial companies (-1.8%). Lending to non-financial intermediaries improved slightly at -1.8% in November, after -2.2% in October. 'In part, the weakness in lending undoubtedly stems from low demand from the non-financial private sector,' said Howard...

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