At the same time, debt growth (including mortgage debt) remained subdued at 2.9% in 2012, the fourth year after the Lehman collapse. The global debt ratio (liabilities expressed as a percentage of GDP) dropped by another percentage point to 65.9%, compared with 71.6% in 2009. This meant that global net financial assets (gross financial assets less liabilities) actually witnessed double-digit growth of 10.4%. All regions benefited from this strong growth. Even in the crisis-ridden eurozone, net financial assets climbed by 7.2% – not least thanks to stagnating liabilities – putting them back above the pre-crisis value for the first time at the end of 2012.
But the positive development seen last year is not enough to paper over the deep cracks in private asset balance sheets in the euro area. The wealth gap is getting wider and wider. Average net financial assets in Greece now come in at only 28% of the eurozone average; before the crisis hit, this figure was still well above the 50% mark. In Spain, the figure slipped from 61% to 44% last year. "The growing wealth gap in the eurozone is an upshot of the crisis," said Michael Heise, Chief Economist at Allianz. "If this gap between north and south widens further it could undermine European cohesion. The reform drives to date are starting to bear fruit this year. Further resolute steps towards integration are needed in order to give all Europeans a clear prospect of growth and prosperity again."