Eurozone slides back into recession
Five eurozone countries are in recession — Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus. Those five are also at the center of Europe's debt crisis and are imposing austerity measures, such as cuts to wages and pensions and increases to taxes, in an attempt to stay afloat.
As well as hitting workers' incomes and living standards, these measures have also led to a decline in economic output and a sharp increase in unemployment.
Spain and Greece have unemployment rates of over 25 percent. Their young people are faring even worse with every other person out of work. As well as being a cost to governments who have to pay out more for benefits, it carries a huge social and human cost.
Protests across Europe on Wednesday highlighted the scale of discontent and with economic surveys pointing to the downturn getting worse, the voices of anger may well get louder still.
"The likelihood is that this anger will continue to grow unless European leaders and policymakers start to act as if they have a clue as to how to resolve the crisis starting to unravel before their eyes," said Michael Hewson, markets analyst at CMC Markets.
Europe has no doubt made some progress this year in allaying some of the worst fears in the markets, notably through the announcement of new bond-buying program from the European Central Bank. However, with Greece still teetering on the edge and the eurozone in recession, the economic storms are never far away.
Mario Draghi, the ECB's president has been widely credited for helping foster the more optimistic tone in the markets but he admits there's still a long way to go.
"The year that is about to end will be remembered not only for the effects the European sovereign debt crisis has had on the euro and for the significant weakening of the European economy, but also for the responses to these challenges by the ECB, national governments and the European Union," he said in a speech at Univerisita Bocconi in Milan.
"Ultimately, it is up to governments to dispel once and for all the persistent uncertainties that markets perceive and citizens fear," Draghi added.
The wider 27-nation EU, which includes non-euro countries, avoided the same recession fate as the eurozone. Eurostat said the EU's output rose 0.1 percent during the third quarter, largely on the back of an Olympics-related boost in Britain.
The EU's output as a whole is greater than the U.S. It is also a major source of sales for the world's leading companies. Forty percent of McDonald's global revenue comes from Europe - more than it generates in the U.S. General Motors, meanwhile, sold 1.7 million vehicles in Europe last year, a fifth of its worldwide sales.
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