Euro-Area Consumer Confidence Rose for a Second Month

Euro-area consumer confidence rose for a second month in January, adding to signs that the 17-nation economy may be emerging from a recession.

An index of household confidence in the currency bloc increased to minus 23.9 from a revised minus 26.3 in December, the European Commission in Brussels said in an initial estimate today. That’s the second increase after sentiment reached a 3 1/2-year low in November as record unemployment and the recession weighed on confidence. Economists had forecast an increase to minus 26, according to the median of 30 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said yesterday that the “darkest clouds over the euro” had lifted and “significant progress” was made last year. While the ECB expects the euro-area economy to shrink 0.3 percent in 2013, it predicts a “gradual recovery” to begin later in the year will help it emerge from its second recession in four years.

The euro-area economy probably stagnated in the first quarter after a 0.4 percent contraction in the previous three months, according to the median of 26 economists’ forecasts in a separate Bloomberg News survey.

At the same time, with governments cutting spending to rein in excessive debt and a jobless rate at a record 11.8 percent, the euro-area economy is still suffering from its sovereign debt crisis. Spain’s recession deepened in the last quarter of 2012 and in France, the region’s second largest economy, business confidence unexpectedly dropped in January, the national statistics office said yesterday.

The commission is scheduled to publish the final numbers for consumer confidence and the wider indicator of euro-area economic confidence on Jan. 30.