Eurozone firms keep borrowing as growth fears mount

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) – Companies’ demand for bank loans held up in the eurozone in the third quarter, the European Central Bank (ECB) found in a survey published yesterday, in a mildly positive sign amid fears of a slowdown.

“Net demand for loans to enterprises remained broadly unchanged in the third quarter,” the ECB said in its quarterly survey of 144 banks across the single currency area.

But the steady interest in loans disappointed financial firms’ hopes earlier this year that the third quarter would bring growth in demand. “Demand slightly increased for loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises, but decreased for loans to large firms,” the ECB added.

Many of the central bank’s measures to stimulate the economy in recent years have aimed at increasing bank lending, a more significant factor for growth in Europe than other advanced economies like the United States (US).

But the Frankfurt institution and organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were forced to slash eurozone growth forecasts in recent weeks, as external factors such as trade wars and Brexit weigh on the bloc.

ECB economists now expect expansion of 1.1 per cent this year and 1.2 per cent in 2020.It was unclear yesterday whether British Members of Parliament (MP) would vote through a last-minute divorce deal with the European Union (EU).

And a truce in the US’ damaging trade conflict with China remains elusive, while Washington last week slapped new tariffs on USD7.5 billion of EU imports.