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Eurozone crisis live: EU summit focuses on growth

• Surprise fall in German retail sales for January
• EU leaders to sign fiscal compact this morning
Spanish unemployment up 2.4%
• Overnight deposits with ECB hit record €777bn
Today’s agenda
• Live blogging now: @MartinFarrer

8.39am: Just watching the live feed from the EU and the leaders are gathering for a meeting of the European Council. I’ve seen better live telly but it has a certain excitement. Ange, Sarko, Neil Kinnock’s daughter-in-law – they’re all there chatting away, meeting and greeting. But now they’re all sitting down so the business is about to start. Possibly.

Meanwhile, I wonder how our very own David Cameron spent his spare time when his counterparts were signing the fiscal compact this morning? Did he go back for seconds at the breakfast buffet? With all those pesky Europeans out of the way, was he able to enjoy his fry-up in peace or did the sight of the muesli and croissants put him off his bacon and eggs? Because surely, in his moment of isolation, he needed to eat a fry-up. Makes it all worthwhile.

8.23am: Figures just released show that banks are holding onto the cash they have taken from the ECB and depositing back with the central bank. With balances swollen by the huge loans under the longer-term refinancing operation, banks deposited a total of €777bn overnight with the ECB. Pretty certain that’s a new record.

8.16am: Barclays has confirmed this morning that it has helped itself to €8.2bn, or £6.7bn, under the European
Central Bank’s scheme of bolstering banks with cheap money.

Barclays said the money would be used to plug gaps in its operations in crisis-hit Spain and Portugal. €6.2bn has been earmarked just for Spain.

The second phase of the so-called longer-term refinancing operation was announced on Wednesday and saw banks take €529bn of loans at 1% from the ECB. They took €489bn just before Christmas in a scheme likened to quantitative easing used in the UK and US to support the financial system. Barclays did not take part in the first round of the LTRO.

8.02am: Right on cue, new unemployment figures from Spain underline that last point. The jobless rate rose 2.4% in February compared to January, leaving well over 5 million people out of work. Spain already has the highest unemployment in Europe.

7.51am: Economic data out this week should be focusing the minds of EU leaders when they discuss growth at today’ summit in Brussels, as Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC says in his morning note.

The need for actions with respect to Europe’s economy could not have been underscored more starkly than by yesterday’s unemployment figures which showed that the current focus on fiscal austerity was sending unemployment rates sharply higher, particularly in southern Europe.

Protests across Europe seem to capture the mood in Portugal and Spain especially with EU leaders determined to press ahead with their much vaunted fiscal compact despite a widespread acceptance that Spain will miss its budget targets and a refusal by EU leaders to consider concessions in the face of all this unrest.

Whatever EU leaders decide the soaring price of oil could potentially derail any plans after it again hit record euro and sterling highs last night on reports of an explosion at a Saudi Arabian oil pipeline.

7.23am: Morning all. Already quite a bit to talk about in euroland, notably an unexpected 1.6% fall in German retail sales in January compared with December. Most experts had predicted a rise in the monthly figure although sales were up 1.6% compared with last January. The index is notoriously volatile but if German consumers are continuing to save instead of splurging on, say, Greek olive oil, then the European economy has still got problems.

The reluctance of shoppers in the eurozone’s richest and most populous country to spend will also cast a shadow over the talks in Brussels today aimed at setting out measures to encourage growth.

The EU summit is among today’s highlights but here’s the line-up so far:

• European leaders – except David Cameron and the Czech PM – will sign the new fiscal compact this morning at 8.30 before going to discuss growth. Cameron will be included in that bit.

• Latest data on the UK construction due at 9.30am.

• Markets will be watching closely to see what happens to the price of oil, which could kibosh any hopes for more growth in the west. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds