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German investor optimism in unexpected rise in April, ZEW institute finds

FRANKFURT – Germany’s ZEW survey of investor optimism unexpectedly rose in April for a fifth straight month in another upbeat sign for Europe’s biggest economy despite recurring turmoil from the debt crisis hitting the 17 countries that use the euro.

The survey’s index, released Tuesday, rose to 23.4 from 22.3 in March. Analysts had expected a dip to 19.0, with some predicting a figure as low as 15.0.

The upbeat views run counter to the recent concern about bond market pressure on Spain and Italy, and were gathered from 275 financial experts between April 2 and April 16, during which the interest rate on those countries’ bonds rose — a sign of financial distress.

Germany’s economy, driven by strong exports to Asia and North American, is expected to outpace the eurozone economy as a whole this year. The Bundesbank, the country’s national central bank, forecasts growth of 0.6 per cent this year and 1.8 per cent next year.

The eurozone economy as a whole is expected to shrink by 0.3 per cent, according to estimates by the European Union’s executive commission.

Cutbacks in government spending in indebted countries including Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy are weighing on growth and boosting unemployment in large parts of the shared currency bloc.

ZEW President Wolfgang Franz said the data for Germany showed that “financial market experts have maintained their positive outlook for the next half year. “

He said the small size of the increase suggested that optimism was beginning to run up against concerns about possible risks. “The fact that the indicator is running in place shows, however, that the optimism about the real economy has been held back by significant risks, such as for example cyclical weakness of important trade partners and the debt crisis in the eurozone.”