From the Torygraph Business news: The euro plunged to eight-month lows yesterday after Germany's Stern magazine reported that top German officials had examined the possible collapse of the single currency at a secret meeting in Berlin. Traders were already on edge following the rejection of the EU constitution by French and now Dutch voters, but the extreme scenario examined in the Stern report sent further tremors through the markets. The euro closed at 1.223 against the dollar, down 9.7pc so far this year. The European Central Bank cut its 2005 growth forecast yet again from 1.6pc to 1.4pc as fresh data pointed to an industrial slowdown. The "spread" between German and Italian bonds continued to widen from a low of 0.09pc in March to 0.23pc as investors demanded a higher premium for riskier debt. In an unprecedented attack on monetary union from a major German magazine, Stern said it was time to break the "taboo" by admitting that Germany had been gravely damaged by giving up the Deutchesmark six years ago. Entitled "Der Euro macht uns Kaputt" - the euro is destroying us - the article called monetary union "one of the worst economic blunders made by Germany since 1945". Some 56pc of Germans now want a return of the mark, according to an accompanying poll. Critics say the eurozone system has had the perverse effect of tightening both fiscal and monetary conditions in the midst of the downturn, driving Germany deeper into slump. Stern, a Bertelsmann flagship, published extracts from an internal finance ministry document warning of "brutal divergences" in the eurozone's growth, credit and price levels. The text said lower interest rates had brought "enormous" advantages to Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy as they enjoyed the windfall benefits of Germany's coveted credit rating in the form of much lower interest rates. But now higher inflation was eating into their competitiveness. "It is not clear that these problems are going to fade away in the foreseeable future. On the contrary: the gap risks getting wider, increasing the danger of an adjustment crisis," said the document. Alarmed by the findings, Hans Eichel, the finance minister, called a secret meeting in Berlin last Thursday, also attended by Axel Weber, the Bundesbank chief. Joachim Fels, Morgan Stanley's eurozone economist, briefed the group on the enveloping crisis in southern Europe, notably Italy, warning of a "meltdown" risk that could break up the euro-zone. He told them high-debt states were unlikely to leave the euro-zone by choice since the price would be too high. But a hard-core led by Germany might reap some benefit from breaking away. Mr Fels said yesterday that Europe was now "on a slippery slope toward disintegration and instability. The risk of a euro wreckage has risen significantly.'' Stern advised readers to look carefully at their euro bank notes: the number series on German issue notes start with the letter "X", while Italian notes start with "S". The finance ministry admitted that the Berlin meeting had taken place but tried to play down the implications. "Mr Eichel believes that monetary union is a success," said a spokesman. The document suggested that Germany's slump of recent years was directly linked to the euro, which had fatally distorted "real" interest rates (after inflation) across the eurozone. 1 June 2005: The euro is killing our economy, say Dutch A sticky end in sight, perhaps?