The rising unemployment in euro zone poses no immediate threat to consumer related ABS ratings, reported Fitch Ratings. According to figures released by Eurostat unemployment figures in February 2003 rose to 8.7% from 8.6% recorded a month earlier. Unemployment rates in 2001 remained at a stable 8% throughout most of the year. The recent rates highlight that some countries have fared worse than others. Notably, said Fitch, unemployment rates have risen by 2.6% in Portugal, 1.3% in Spain and 1.0% in Germany during this period. Rates in France increased by 0.6% over the same period. While rates in Italy are higher than the euro zone average, since 2001 unemployment rates have actually fallen by 0.4%, standing at 9.0% in January 2003.
Nonetheless, consumer ABS deals have maintained steady performance levels over the past 15 months. In the long-term rising unemployment rates will negatively impact consumer confidence leading to diminished consumer disposable income. "If debt levels remain the same, falling disposable income raises the likelihood of increased delinquencies and higher consumer default rates across Europe," reported Fitch.