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Europe ‘not ready to cope’ with a new financial crisis

Credit ratings agency Moody's has warned that Europe remains highly vulnerable to a fresh economic downturn despite all its work to fight off crises over the past few years.

The report comes as tax and spending plans by Italy's new government present the latest potential threat to the region's markets.

Moody's said that Europe "is not ready to cope with another major slump stressing the financial system".

The credit agency's assessment is published as experts assess the fallout from the last crisis that began 10 years ago – with one leading expert recently telling Sky News that the next one has already begun.

Moody's said a series of vulnerabilities including higher debt levels, peaking asset prices and regulatory risks could deepen the impact of a fresh downturn in Europe.

Paolo Leschiutta, senior vice president at Moody's, said: "Overall, the amount of wiggle room available to mitigate the impact of another downturn is shrinking."

It follows a relatively calm period for the 19-country eurozone, which enjoyed strong growth last year and saw unemployment fall to a decade-low rate of 8.1%.

History Repeating: Is the next financial crisis on its way? 13:04 Video: Is the next financial crash on its way?

Meanwhile, Greece – at the centre of much of the zone's problems in recent years – is no longer reliant on bailout loans.

With the worst apparently behind it, the European Central Bank has started to rein in crisis-era economic support measures – and plans to halt its massive bond-buying programme at the end of this year before possibly raising interest rates again next year.

However, fresh anxieties have emerged after the new government in Rome set out tax and spending plans that will see the country's budget deficit swell.

That has sent Italy's share index lower and pushed up the interest rate charged on Italian bonds – parcels of government debt.

Moody's was not the not the only voice warning of the outlook for Europe, with the Berenberg bank saying a "cocktail of risks" was constraining growth.

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Holger Schmieding, Berenberg's chief economist, said: "After smooth sailing in 2017, the eurozone has faced a series of headwinds since February 2018.

"The risks to growth range from trade tensions and a still unresolved Brexit to trouble in vulnerable emerging markets, higher oil prices and dangerous reform reversals in Italy."

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