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European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet (THOMAS LOHNES)
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet (THOMAS LOHNES)

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ECB chief Trichet on economy, soccer: Don't underestimate Europe Add to ...

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Trichet talks up Europe Whether talking about the economy or the World Cup, European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet had the same message today: Don't underestimate Europe.

After holding the ECB's benchmark interest rate steady, Mr. Trichet told reporters that Europe's economy, a focus among investors given the fears over mounting debt troubles, is stronger than some believe. He said there is a tendency outside Europe to be "excessively pessimistic" about the continent but that the numbers don't bear that out.

As for soccer, Mr. Trichet cited the success of teams from the euro zone, the countries that share the common currency, saying that "in the best four you have three European teams ... I have said from time to time that one should not underestimate Europe."

European rates unchanged Both the ECB and the Bank of England held their benchmark lending rates steady today. That was expected but markets were more interested in what Mr. Trichet had to say about bank stress tests. The stress tests, the results of which will be released July 23, are a big issue across Europe.

"There is a lot of apprehension in the market over what may be potentially revealed by the stress tests, and there are some already voicing criticism that these tests may not be putative enough," said Scotia Capital currency strategist Sacha Tihanyi. "We hold the view that transparency is preferred to opacity, and while there is risk that banks are shown to be sitting on unstable capital bases, European policy makers can manage the risks by suggesting financial support for vulnerable cases (as they have in recent days)."

Mr. Trichet welcomed the tests, saying they would help drive confidence in the financial sector and that "appropriate action will have to be taken where needed." Read the story

Germany shows strength Europe's biggest economy is picking up steam and, on a brighter note for G20 leaders, taking "a step in the right direction" in the area of global imbalances. Industrial production in Germany rose 2.6 per cent in May while its exports soared more than 9 per cent, fresh signs of a rebound driven by industry. What may be more notable - at least from the perspective of other countries that are watching Germany closely - the country's trade surplus narrowed markedly in May to €9.7-billion from €13.1-billion. That was due to a surge in imports of 14.8 per cent, good news for other countries as demand grows. Correcting global imbalances was a key theme at the recent G20 summit in Toronto and, while it's just a one-month measure, it is a step in the right direction, said BMO Nesbitt Burns economist Benjamin Reitzes.

"Improved demand out of Germany is something global leaders have been pleading for, to help rebalance the global economy and boost global growth," Mr. Reitzes said.

China's current account surplus to shrink China says its current account surplus will shrink for a second consecutive year this year as domestic demand grows. The State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, said the current account surplus fell last year to 6.1 per cent of gross domestic product from 9.6 per cent a year earlier. The current account is the broadest measure of trade.

"The momentum for the trade surplus to widen will moderate," it said. "The current-account surplus as a percentage of GDP will decline further."

IMF prods U.S. on debt The International Monetary Fund today urged the United States to move quickly to slash its budget deficit, suggesting it could raise taxes, cut social benefits or kill the deduction on interest on mortgages. The IMF, in an annual look at the U.S., projected its economy will expand 3.3 per cent this year, but fall shy of 3-per-cent growth for the next five years. David Robinson, the group's deputy director for the Western Hemisphere, said that as it sees a weaker growth path than the government, it also sees "a need for more fiscal measures than the authorities at present do."

IMF sees slower growth next year Canada's economy will perform better this year than the International Monetary Fund expected, but the outlook for next year is growing dimmer. The global economy is rebounding faster than originally projected, the IMF said in a new report today, but it warned the spreading fears over swollen government debts could derail the recovery. For Canada, the group raised its growth forecast to 3.6 per cent this year, from its earlier projection of 3.1 per cent, but cut its 2011 outlook to 2.8 per cent from 3.2 per cent.

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