Eurozone loan growth picks up in December

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Lending to the private sector in the eurozone picked up pace in December, official data showed Monday, suggesting little effect from the withdrawal of a key pillar of central bank stimulus last month.

Borrowing among eurozone firms and households grew 3.4 percent year-on-year in December, European Central Bank figures showed after adjusting for some purely financial transactions.

The pace of growth added 0.1 percentage point compared with November.

Looking in more detail at the data, loans to both households and non-financial firms grew as quickly in December as the previous month, at 3.3 and 4.0 percent.

But growth in credit to insurance companies and pension funds jumped more than 10 percentage points, to 18.4 percent.

The figures suggested little impact on the real economy last month as the European Central Bank finally wound down mass purchases of government and corporate bonds, known as “quantitative easing”.

Over more than three years the Frankfurt institution bought more than 2.6 trillion euros ($3.0 trillion) of government and corporate bonds, aiming to pump cash through the financial system to stoke growth and inflation.

But while the scheme has succeeded in warding off deflation — a harmful spiral of falling prices and activity — price growth has fallen back from the ECB’s target of just below 2.0 percent.

Looking ahead, indicators and forecasts point to economic expansion in the 19-nation eurozone falling back further from the boom year of 2017.

The IMF last week predicted growth of 1.6 percent this year, compared with 1.8 percent in 2018 and 2.3 percent the previous year.