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Slight recovery in European stocks

Global shares on the rise following US interest rate freeze.

European stocks have responded positively to the US central bank's announcement that interest rates are likely to remain on hold until 2013.

Signs that the Federal Reserve are implementing growth strategies led to gains of between one and two per cent in European bourses. London's FTSE 100 share index was up by 1.4 per cent.

The news comes at a time when positive growth in other parts of the global economy is also taking place. Following Tuesday's statement, US shares closed up four per cent and Asian markets continued to show gains of between one and two per cent.

The US interest rate currently ranges between zero and 0.25 per cent. As well as the welcome news surrounding interest rate freezes, the Federal Reserve posited the possible introduction of further quantitative easing methods in order to stabilise the global economy.

The US economy has suffered serious blows in recent days following the ongoing debate between Republicans and Democrats over whether to raise the US debt ceiling. Standard & Poor's downgrading of the US credit rating from triple A to AA+ for the first time added to fears that the world's biggest economy was heading for recession.

Despite putting interest rates on hold, analysts have made it clear that such fears persist. There is still a long way to go before the falls of recent weeks are in any way close to being recovered. Ongoing eurozone volatility has provoked analysts to reassess economic and corporate profit growth estimates. Although recent growth figures offer a glimpse of reassurance, longer-term uncertainty over US and European economies prevails.

Tess Riley is a freelance journalist and social justice campaigner. She also works, part time, for Streetbank, and can be found on Twitter at @tess_riley

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.