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Morning business round-up: Eurozone unemployment rises

What made the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

Unemployment across countries that use the euro edged higher in February to 10.8%.

That's up from 10.7% in January and the highest level since the introduction of the single currency in 1999. Spain has the highest rate of 23.6%.

Meanwhile, a separate report confirmed that manufacturing activity in Europe shrank in February.

A former senior official at the European Central Bank (ECB) has said that the risk of eurozone debt woes spreading, the so-called contagion threat, has always been "overstated".

But Juergen Stark, who resigned last year as the ECB's chief economist, told the BBC's Hard Talk that it was too early to say if Greece will be able to meet its austerity targets.

He said this would be known in six months' time.

The UK's manufacturing sector grew at its fastest pace for 10 months in March, a survey has indicated.

The Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for manufacturing rose to 52.1 last month from 51.5 in February. A reading above 50 implies growth.

The data is an encouraging sign that the UK economy grew in the first three months of 2012 and avoided a recession.

The recovery in the UK financial services sector is continuing, a survey has suggested, with optimism improving and firms taking on new staff.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and employers' group the CBI found business volumes in the three months to March grew for the eighth quarter in a row.

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Optimism in the sector rose for the first time in a year.

The continued lack of activity in the UK housing market has been reflected in the latest injection of equity into British homes.

Housing equity withdrawal remained negative in the final three months of 2011, the Bank of England said.

The £8.5bn injection of equity reflected low levels of sales, rather than owners making an active effort to pay off their mortgages more quickly.

The main Asian news was a report showing that Japanese manufacturers continue to remain pessimistic despite recent weakness in the yen.

The Bank of Japan's (BOJ) Tankan survey showed that large manufacturers' sentiment between January to March remained at minus four, the same level as the previous quarter.

The survey is considered by the BOJ while deciding its monetary policy.

You can hear the BBC's interview with ex-ECB chief economist Juergen Stark in the latest edition of our Business Daily programme.

He reveals that he left the bank last year because of deep concern about the ECB's policy of buying the government bonds of indebted eurozone members.

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