The ECB looks likely to extend QE at its meeting next week - but could reportedly signal an end to the programme even as Europe's political risk eclipses the economy as the main focus for markets. David Pollard reports.
Euro zone unemployment has touched a seven-year low. But one man without a job soon will be Francois Hollande. His withdrawal from the presidential race next year another jolt to Europe's fractured politics. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH FAR-RIGHT NATIONAL FRONT PARTY LEADER, MARINE LE PEN, SAYING: "Brave? He didn't have any choice apart from the one he took...." And nearly one in ten are still out of work. Hollande facing a backlash against a failed promise to create jobs. The Brexit/Trump era also seen likely to put Europe's first far-right president into power in Austria. Just as Italy braced for a referendum seen potentially ending the career of its prime minister. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INDEPENDENT MARKET ANALYST, JEREMY BATSTONE-CARR, SAYING: "The Italian people are extremely angry, with good reason. The country has experienced about two decades of economic stagnation - in some people's terms, a depression." It's perhaps as expected that most economists in the latest Reuters poll see the ECB extending its QE programme - when it meets on December 8th. Growth is seen even lower next year - 1.4 per cent compared to the 1.6 expected this. Inflation's not tipped to reach the ECB target of close to 2 per cent until 2019 at least. With its leaders squaring up to electors across Europe, 2017 may be the year when governments loosen fiscal rules. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK CHIEF, MARIO DRAGHI, SAYING: "It is up to euro area governments to act, individually at national level as well as jointly at European level." The ECB though may be forced into at least verbal concessions ... One new report saying that - in the face of German opposition - the next meeting may signal an eventual end to QE. Even if an extension beyond March is still seen as inevitable.