Lending to euro zone households and firms rose for the first time in three years in March. As David Pollard reports, European Central Bank data suggests the euro zone is turning the corner less than two months after the bank launched a massive money-printing programme.
The two faces of France. Here, eager consumers - queuing for last week's release of the iWatch - French shoppers at their most confident in five years. But here - those eager to work take their place in the line at the local unemployment office. France's jobless rate is still creeping upwards. Business confidence, according to new figures, fell in April. As did Germany's. Dominic Johnson is CEO, Somerset Capital Management. SOUNDBITE (English) DOMINIC JOHNSON, CEO, SOMERSET CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, SAYING: ''The main bloc of Europe, Germany and France, for me remains extremely problematic, and France is still descending gently down a slope with no real appetite or sign of true reform, and at the end of the day that's all that matters.'' It's a mixed picture. Here, 'though, there's definitely a sunnier outlook. Spain's retail sales rose again for the eighth month in March. A rebound in consumption boosting growth at one of the fastest rates in the euro zone - and raising the prospect of some relief for the one in four people unemployed there. Italy has its own good news: business morale there is at its best in almost four years. SOUNDBITE (English) DOMINIC JOHNSON, CEO, SOMERSET CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, SAYING: ''On the periphery, which is the only place where you're really seeing good quality numbers come out, like Spain and Italy and so on in the short term, I think some of those countries have actually made quite good headway, both again in the tone of how they're presenting their austerity policies and in the actuality of reducing state spending and trying to get their finances in order.'' Lending to euro zone households and firms rose for the first time in three years in March, according to new ECB data. That's thanks in no small part, says Johnson, to the ECB itself - and its massive bond-buying programme. And perhaps to this man. Yanis Varoufakis - with the help of his wife - has had to fend off an anarchist attack when eating in an Athens restaurant, but has fans in unlikely places. SOUNDBITE (English) DOMINIC JOHNSON, CEO, SOMERSET CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, SAYING: ''We should have a statue to that Greek finance minister. The more problems that Greece has, the cheaper the euro gets, and that's given a huge competitive boost as far as exports are concerned.'' A thought Varoufakis may share when he next meets his euro zone counterparts.