Euro Up!

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FRANKFURT, Germany: Among central bankers, this is a housewarming gift. Before handing over monetary policy control to the new European Central Bank when the euro debuts January 1, the top bankers of the 11 participating countries joined hands and slashed interest rates across euro-land to a low, low 3 percent. The fledgling ECB should consider it a generous Christmas gift.

"Europe is headed into an economic slowdown," explains TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl. "When the ECB takes over in January, politicians will be calling for rate cuts -- but the ECB will want to establish its independence as a central bank." Thursday's surprise move by the 11 lame ducks gives the continental economy a boost -- which should keep the politicians happy for a few months -- with no loss of face for the new bank on the block. After all, these are tenuous economic times; those poor central bankers have got to stick together.