Euro zone government debt fell for the first time in nearly six years in the third quarter, data showed on Wednesday, adding to signs the bloc was turning the corner on the sovereign debt crisis.
Debt in the 17 countries sharing the euro stood at €8.842-trillion (7.23 trillion pounds) in the three months to September, or 92.7 per cent of the bloc’s GDP, compared with €8.875-trillion, or 93.4 per cent, in the previous quarter.
The European Union’s statistics office Eurostat said it was the first decline, in absolute terms, since the fourth quarter of 2007.
Nearly 86 per cent of the overall debt comes from securities other than shares, such as bonds and treasury bills, followed by loans, currency and deposits as well as intergovernmental lending related to the financial crisis.
Europe’s three biggest economies saw its debt fall, with Germany down to 78.4 per cent of its GDP and France down to 92.7 per cent, Debt the bloc’s third largest economy Italy dropped to 132.9 per cent from its peak of 133.3 per cent in the previous quarter, but it remains the euro zone’s second highest after Greece.
Athens, which needed two bailouts of an aggregate size of €240-billion to avert bankruptcy, saw its debt going up to 171.8 per cent from 168.8 per cent in the second quarter.
Spain’s debt rose to 93.4 per cent from 92.2 per cent in the second quarter, while Portugal’s debt dropped to 128.7 per cent from 131.3 per cent.
The level of debt in a majority of euro zone countries, however, remains well above the European Union’s official limit of 60 per cent of the economic output.