Pace of eurozone private sector loans eases in July: ECB

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The rate of growth in private sector bank lending slowed slightly in July, the European Central Bank said Friday, which analysts took to point to risks to eurozone economic growth.

Overall bank lending increased by 2.4 percent compared with the same month last year but that was a small decline from 2.5 percent in June, the ECB data showed.

A breakdown of the data showed a contraction of 2.1 percent in household credit for consumption, while loans for home purchases grew 3.9 percent.

"Our empirical studies suggest that low loan growth hints at further downside risks for economic growth," Commerzbank analyst Michael Schubert said.

The 17-nation eurozone economy grew by a meagre 0.2 percent in the second quarter of 2011, heightening fears of a slide back into recession as the bloc tries to contain a debt crisis.

Meanwhile, growth in eurozone money supply, a key indicator of demand in the economy, edged higher in July but only following a revision of the June figure lower, the ECB data showed.

The M3 indicator rose 2.0 percent following a gain of 1.9 percent in June.

The ECB had initially estimated the increase in June at 2.1 percent and analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had pencilled in a rise of 2.2 percent in July.

"One might expect these trends to worsen into August, given the intensificiation of the financial tensions" in Europe, Barclays Capital economist Julian Callow said.

The ECB regards the M3 figure as a key guide to inflation pressures and uses it to set interest rates accordingly.

The central bank seeks to keep eurozone inflation below but close to 2.0 percent but it stood at 2.5 percent in July.

The central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to 1.50 percent last month to contain inflation but is now expected to sit tight for the next few months, at least, owing to the sharp slowdown in eurozone activity.

© 2011 AFP

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