Money returns to eurozone, but jobless rate rising
Money is returning to the eurozone.
That's the conflicting message of a pair of reports that show why Europe is less of a threat to the world financial system than it was last year, but is still no less of a drag on the global economy.
The money returning to the currency union is in the form of short-term investments by US money market funds - often an important supply of dollars and short-term funding for European banks.
When big US funds fled Europe in 2011, they intensified the problems faced by eurozone banks and heightened the sense a crack-up of the eurozone was not just possible but even likely.
Fitch Ratings reported Friday that the top 10 US money market funds - the large pools of cash used as play-it-safe investments and money management tools - have nearly doubled their eurozone holdings since hitting a low last summer.
Eurozone banks now account for 14.5 per cent of top fund holdings, or nearly $US100 billion ($A98 billion), according to Fitch's research. The 10 firms analysed by Fitch represent about 45 per cent of the roughly $US1.5 trillion US money market pool.
The turnaround in money-market investments in Europe is part of a general easing of the region's financial crisis.
Though the confused results of a recent Italian election were a reminder that problems could worsen again if governments are unable to deliver on promised steps to control debt and revive economic growth, the region has stepped back from what seemed a looming break-up.
What hasn't turned around is the real economy, which remains in recession. The Eurostat statistical agency reported on Friday that unemployment in the 17-nation currency zone rose again in January, to 11.9 per cent, compared with 11.8 per cent in December and 10.8 per cent a year ago.
Joblessness in the larger 27-nation European Union also rose, to 10.8 per cent compared with 10.7 per cent in December.
The figures mask a discrepancy among countries, from 4.9 per cent unemployment in Austria to 26 and 27 per cent in Spain and Greece respectively.
Officially, the region is in recession, meaning a major pillar of the world economy is contracting.