OPTIMISM in the Eurozone about its economic prospects continued to improve in January with a jump in morale in the bloc's two largest economies, Germany and France . Economic sentiment in the 18 countries using the euro strengthened by 0.5 points to 100.9 in the ninth straight month of gains, data from the European Commission showed yesterday. Consumer confidence improved sharply by 1.8 to swing above its long term-average for the first time since July 2011 thanks to improving job expectations and a brighter outlook. While services and retail trade morale improved in January, however, construction sector sentiment fell sharply by 3.7 in part because of lower orders. Europe's top economy, Germany , saw sentiment improve by 0.7 to 106.7 points in January, while sentiment in France rose by 1.1 to 97.1. The business climate in the 9.5 trillion euro economy was virtually unchanged at 0.19 in January, compared with 0.2 in December, data from the Commission said. Meanwhile the European Central Bank said Eurozone banks expect to ease lending standards for households in the first quarter, while demand for loans is seen to rise. The ECB said its latest quarterly Bank Lending Survey pointed to a pick up in demand across all loan categories in the January-March period. "For the first quarter of 2014, euro area banks expect a further reduction in the net tightening on loans to non-financial corporations - to reach nil - and a more intense net easing for loans to households," the ECB said.
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