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Economy in Brief

Economic News from France, Italy and the Netherlands Suggests Lower Growth Prospects in the Euro Zone
by Louise Curley March 23, 2004

The economic news announced today, relating to consumer spending and confidence in France, Italy and the Netherlands, adds fuel to the growing doubts about this year's growth prospects for the Euro Zone.

Consumer spending has yet to show any signs of accelerating. February data on household expenditures on manufactured goods, a good indicator of French consumer spending were practically unchanged from January. Growth in retail sales in Italy in December and January improved, but a decline in confidence suggests this trend may not hold up.

The seasonally adjusted consumer confidence index in Italy increased in March, but the ISAE reported that confidence weakened toward the end of the survey period after the Madrid bombings. On average, the Italian consumer confidence index in the first quarter of 2004 was 5% below that of the fourth quarter of last year.

In the Netherlands, where confidence had been generally improving since July, 2003, it declined in March by 4 points.

Consumption Indicators Feb 04 Jan 04 Dec 03 Feb 03 Jan 03 M/M 
%
Y/Y 
%
2003 2002 2001
French Household  Expenditures on Mfg Goods (Bil 95 Euros) 17.9 17.8   17.3 0.04 3.62 208.0 204.3 201.9
Italy Retail Sales (2000=100) 108.9 108.3 106.4 0.55 2.35 107.4 105.3 102.0
                 
Confidence Indicators Mar 04 Feb 04 Mar 03  M/M 
%
Y/Y 
%
2003 2002 2001
Italy (1980=100) 101.9 98.9 99.0 3.03 -4.59 106.2 115.8 122.6
Netherlands (% balance) -26 -22 -30 -4 +12 -36 -20 -1
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