Why The Center Of Europe Is Really Hard To Pinpoint

A statue depicting European unity is seen outside the European Parliament in Brussels September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The uncertainty emanating from Washington took the shine off a German election triumph for Angela Merkel which confirmed she would remain Europe’s dominant leader as the continent tries to put its debt crisis to bed. Still, the bloc should be able to take on its continuing challenges from a position of improving economic growth, after the region pulled out of recession in the second quarter. Markit’s Eurozone Flash Composite PMI jumped to 52.1 in September from last month’s 51.5, its highest since June 2011 and beating expectations for a reading of 51.9. The pace of expansion in the bloc’s dominant services sector also beat all forecasts in a Reuters poll and the surveys suggested the recovery was becoming more broad-based. Business at firms in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, expanded at a faster pace than last month and in France, the second biggest, activity increased – albeit marginally – for the first time in 19 months. FORWARD MARCH Markit said the composite euro zone PMI, which surveys both manufacturing and service sector companies across the region and is seen as a good guide to economic growth, pointed to a 0.2 percent expansion this quarter, matching a Reuters poll taken earlier this month. “Today’s PMI figures support the view that the euro zone recovery is gradually becoming more entrenched and, as such, further reduce the odds that the ECB will follow up its forward guidance rhetoric with action,” said Martin van Vliet at ING. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said earlier this month monetary policy would remain accommodative for as long as necessary, and that interest rates would remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time. However, some analysts had speculated the bank may take solid action to keep a lid on rising loan rates which could inhibit the recovery. New business in the bloc increased again this month, boding well for October activity, and it was a similar story in China where new export orders jumped to a 10-month peak. Encouragingly, domestic demand also showed resilience, with new orders rising to a five-month high. The Chinese flash HSBC PMI climbed to 51.2 this month from August’s 50.1, hitting a high not seen since March. A breakdown of the data showed 10 of 11 sub-indices rose in September. “Today’s figure adds to the raft of recent better-than-expected Chinese data, indicating that the growth slowdown has already run its course and industrial activity is gaining traction,” said Nikolaus Keis at UniCredit.

The banks of the Rhine? A Tuscan vineyard, or an Austrian chalet? If you were in a more precise (if less poetic) frame of mind, you might head for the exact geographic midpoint of the continentbut even that turns out to be a tricky spot to find. No fewer than eight different nations have claimed to own the center of Europe. But accept no substitutes! Since 1989, theres been a scientifically definitive answer. View Purnuskes, Lithuania in a larger map As weve seen before , there are many different ways to calculate a geographic center. But in the case of Europe, even the most straightforward method, a simple geometric centroid, is fraught with ambiguity. Do we count Europes various islands as part of the continent? If so, which ones? Is Iceland in? What about Cyprus? And where does Europe end and Asia begin?

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