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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The world's governments are holding on to their euros in spite of the debt crisis plaguing the 17 countries that use it, the European Central Bank said Wednesday.
The single European currency made up 25.0 percent of countries' holdings of foreign exchange reserves at the end of last year, down slightly from 25.4 percent at the end of 2010.
Countries hold on to foreign currencies — such as the U.S. dollar, the euro and Japan's yen — to help manage their own currency's exchange rate, as a buffer against financial crises and to service foreign currency debts and obligations.
The U.S. dollar's role as the world's No. 1 reserve currency remained stable, the ECB report found.
The figures, contained in an annual European Central Bank report on the use of the euro currency outside the eurozone, underlines a quirk of the current debt crisis. Even though five governments using the euro have had to seek outside financial help, the currency has maintained a relatively solid exchange rate and remains in relatively strong demand for trade, investment and reserve purposes.
Its value against the dollar of $1.25 on Wednesday, for instance, is higher than the $1.17 when it was introduced in 1999.
The euro also saw slightly lower use in foreign-currency bank accounts in central and Eastern Europe, where it serves as a more reliable way to save for people whose local currency may be shakier. Despite the decline some 83 percent of foreign currency accounts in the region remained in euros.
Greece, Ireland and Portugal have needed bailouts to pay their bills, but are a relatively small part of the eurozone economy dominated by Germany and France. Spain has asked for help bailing out its banks, while tiny Cyprus has also said it will need help because its banks suffered heavy losses due to their involvement with Greece.
The U.S. dollar, the world's leading currency for reserve use, saw its share of global reserves fall slightly to 62.1 percent, down from 62.2 percent at the end of 2011. The dollar remains the world's dominant currency despite high trade and budget deficits in the United States, two factors that can diminish a currency's worth. In trade it remains in heavy use for pricing everything from oil to airplanes in trade.
ECB head Mario Draghi said in a statement Wednesday that the ECB's focus on preserving the stable value of the 17-country currency "continued to underpin the international use of the euro as a store of value."