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Morning Papers: Renewed calls for ECB stimulus

Calls for the European Central Bank to inject more stimulus in the eurozone have been renewed following yesterday’s “dismal” data which showed Italy and France flatlining while Germany continues to outpace the rest of the bloc.

The combined currency bloc scraped together growth of 0.2 per cent between January and March, in line with growth in the previous quarter but this was half the expected 0.4 per cent growth, the Guardian said.

The weak performance will heap further pressure on the European Central Bank to take action to boost the flagging region, after months of speculation. Peter Vanden Houte, economist at ING, described the official data as “dismal”.

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There was a huge divergence, with Germany growing at the fastest rate of all 18 countries, with GDP increasing by 0.8 per cent, double its growth in the previous quarter.

The pace of recovery also accelerated in Spain, with growth of 0.4 per cent outpacing a 0.2 per cent increase in GDP in the previous three months.

At the bottom of the pile was the Netherlands, which suffered a shock 1.4 per cent contraction in GDP and Portugal’s economy shrank by 0.7 per cent.

France didn’t see any growth at all and Italy’s economy grew by 0.1 per cent in the first three months of this year.

According to the Financial Times, poor eurozone data drove investors to retreat from stocks in Asia yesterday (15 May).

US and European investors responded to the data by “switching into top-tier government bonds. Investors in Asia, similarly spooked by stuttering growth in a market on which the region relies on to buy its exports, began their day dumping shares”, the FT said.

Japan’s Topix index was down 1.7 per cent in early morning trading, while Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.5 per cent. Hong Kong also opened lower, with the hang Seng Index down 0.4 per cent.

Mario Draghi, ECB president, and other policy makers including Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann, “have dropped hints in recent weeks that they are ready to act against inflation”, which at 0.7 per cent is less than half its near-2 per cent target.

UK wealth unchanged since recession

The proportion of wealth owned by the top 10 per cent of UK households has “barely changed compared with the years before the recession”, and still stands at 44 per cent, the Financial Times reports.

The figures released by the Office for National Statistics revealed that in 2012, 22 per cent of households aged 55-64 had wealth in excess of £1m – up from 16 per cent before the crisis.

Private pension savings now account for the largest proportion of household wealth – 38 per cent compared to 37 per cent for property. By contrast, 14 per cent of those aged 25-34 have assets of less that £12,500.

The figures also point to the “widening wealth gap” between London and the rest of the country, with household wealth in the capital rising more than five times faster than the English average in the six years between 2006 and 2012.

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