European economies showed further signs of stabilization in January with flash PMIs registering continued strengthening on most fronts (this week will see a number of actual PMI readings). The only noteworthy exception was France where conditions deteriorated further, with the composite reading falling to 42.6 (from 44.7 in December) and hence showing a sharp contraction. At the other end of the scale was Germany, where the composite showed 53.6 (up from 50.3 in December), an evidently positive surge in activity.
Events of the last week have once more brought Italy back into the headlines. The decision of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to deny support to the technocratic government of Mario Monti sent alarm bells ringing in markets across the globe. But the excitement was short lived. Last Thursday Italy sold 3.5 billion euros of a new three-year bond at 2.50 percent, the lowest yield on similar-maturity debt since October 2010 and down from the 2.64 percent paid on 14 November.