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Europe’s recovery gathers pace despite crises

Brussels - Europe's economic recovery is gathering pace despite the Catalan crisis and ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, with eurozone unemployment falling to its lowest level since January 2009, according to the latest figures.

A day after economic sentiment in the eurozone hit its highest level in nearly 17 years, the EU's official statistics agency announced on Tuesday that the jobless rate in the single currency area fell to 8.9 percent in September, beating analyst predictions.

The positive data come after the European Central Bank (ECB) announced it was starting to wind down the massive support it has given the 19-member currency zone to help it through the crises of recent years, in view of the "increasingly robust and broad-based economic expansion".

Seasonally-adjusted unemployment in the eurozone was down from 9.0 percent in August, while the figure for the EU as a whole was 7.5 percent -- the lowest since November 2008, Eurostat said.

GDP grew by 0.6 percent compared with the previous quarter, Eurostat said, and was up 2.5 percent on the same quarter last year.

The ECB has taken extraordinary measures to push up growth and inflation in the eurozone in recent years, setting interest rates at historic lows, offering cheap loans for banks and hoovering billions of euros of government and corporate bonds each month.

But as the eurozone economy has picked up, calls have grown for the ECB to begin unwinding its ultra-loose monetary policies, as the Federal Reserve is doing in the United States.

The Frankfurt-based bank edged in that direction on Thursday, announcing it would halve its monthly asset purchases to 30 billion euros from January.

But with eurozone inflation still stubbornly low -- slowing to 1.4 in October compared with the ECB's target of 2.0 percent -- bank chief Mario Draghi last week reassured investors the era of cheap money was not over yet.

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