Economic Bright Spots in US, Europe Still Rattled

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Lower gasoline prices and more consumers paying off their credit card debt appear to be the bright spots in the U.S. economy.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline dropped 7 cents in the past week, down to $3.60 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

That savings is pumping more cash back into the economy.

Moody's Analytics estimates every 10 cent drop in gas adds up to about $9 billion in extra consumer spending.

The national credit card delinquency rate has also fallen to its lowest rate since 1994. Payments that are 90 days past due fell to six-tenths of one percent.

The improved payment habits come despite an increase in the use of credit cards.

Financial experts say there are a variety of factors behind the improvement, including tighter restrictions on credit card applicants and consumers taking out less debt.

Meanwhile, the European stock markets were rattled Tuesday after reports that Germany's economic growth has dropped sharply.

The slowdown in Europe's strongest economy is sparking fears of more economic trouble for the 17 nations that comprise the eurozone.

Europe's sagging growth prospects make it even harder for governments to shrink their debts. Economic growth in the 17 countries that use the euro sagged to a lackluster quarterly rate of 0.2 percent in the second quarter, as a previously robust expansion in Germany almost ground to a halt, according to EU figures Tuesday.

"The longer the sovereign debt market remains stressed, the greater will be the damage to the wider economy," said Lloyd Barton, senior economic advisor to Ernst & Young. "A further deterioration in financial conditions could severely damage the outlook for the whole of the eurozone."

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