Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Mixed data on housing, consumer outlook but industrial output strong

There were more signs yesterday of a cooling housing market in the US. From the National Association of Realtors:

Total existing-home sales -- including single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7.09 million units in October, down 2.7 percent from September’s pace of 7.29 million. Sales were 3.7 percent above the 6.84 million-unit level in October 2004...

The national median existing-home price for all housing types -- including single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- was $218,000 in October, rising 16.6 percent from October 2004 when the median price was $187,000...

Total housing inventory levels rose 3.5 percent at the end of October to 2.87 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.9-month supply at the current sales pace.

This may or may not impact US consumer confidence in the near future, but in Germany, consumer confidence is already declining, as Bloomberg reports.

Consumer confidence in Germany, Europe's largest economy, fell for a second month in three as Chancellor Angela Merkel's government decided to raise sales tax.

GfK's confidence index, based on a November survey of about 2,000 people that aims to forecast household spending one month ahead, fell to 3.1 from last month's revised 3.3 reading, the Nuremberg-based market-research company said in an e-mailed statement today. GfK reiterated its forecast that private consumption won't increase more than 0.2 percent this year.

Meanwhile, the data coming out of Japan continues to be contradictory. Retail sales were down:

Japan's retail sales fell in October as consumers spent less on cars and clothing, suggesting growth in the world's second-largest economy is slowing.

Sales fell 0.3 percent, seasonally adjusted from September, after a 0.8 percent drop that month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a report in Tokyo today...

From a year earlier, sales at supermarkets, department stores, restaurants and other retailers fell 0.3 percent, the first decrease in 8 months. That compares with a rise of 0.5 percent according to the median of 12 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

...but household spending was up even though the unemployment rate rose:

Japan's households spent more for the second month in five in October as higher wages and better job prospects fueled demand, helping to support expansion in the world's second-largest economy.

Spending by households headed by a salaried worker rose 1.2 percent to 325,501 yen ($2,737), seasonally adjusted from September, the statistics bureau said in Tokyo today. The median estimate of five economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a 0.5 percent rise. Unemployment rose to 4.5 percent, a separate report said, higher than the median estimate of 35 economists in a Bloomberg survey for it to remain unchanged at 4.2 percent...

Household spending rose 1.3 percent in October from the same month a year earlier, the statistics bureau said today.

There was less ambiguity in Japanese industrial production, which continued to improve in October although by less than expected.

Japanese companies increased production for a third month in October to meet rising overseas demand, adding to evidence growth in the world's second-largest economy will accelerate this quarter.

Industrial production climbed an adjusted 0.6 percent after rising 0.4 percent in September, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said today in Tokyo. The gain lagged behind the median 1.3 percent forecast of 36 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and capped a third month of gains, the longest run since November 2003...

Major Japanese companies will increase capital investments by 15.2 percent this business year, the Nihon Keizai newspaper said yesterday, citing its own survey of 1,762 companies nationwide.

Industrial production was also strong in South Korea:

South Korea's industrial production rose for a fifth month in six in October, helped by record exports and the end of strikes at Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp., the nation's two-biggest automakers.

Output gained a seasonally adjusted 1 percent from the previous month after increasing a revised 2.4 percent in September, the National Statistical Office said today. That matched the median forecast of six economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. From a year earlier, output gained 8 percent, the fastest pace since January...

In a separate report, the central bank said today that South Korea's current account surplus rose to $3 billion in October, the highest in nine months, as exports gained at a record pace.

...and in Singapore:

Manufacturing growth was maintained in October with output increase of 17.6% over October last year. Higher output came from all clusters, especially the transport engineering, biomedical manufacturing and electronics clusters. Excluding the biomedical manufacturing cluster, manufacturing output rose by 15.3%. The three-month moving average for October showed total manufacturing output grew by 17.0%. For the seasonally adjusted month-on-month growth, manufacturing output increased by 0.1%. Cumulatively, total manufacturing output grew by 8.6% in the first ten months of 2005 compared to the same period last year.

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