Apart from a slowing US housing market, recent economic indicators suggest that the world economy is on track for continued growth.
In the US, Reuters reports that existing home sales declined in December:
Home resales in the United States fell 5.7 percent in December to the lowest level since March 2004... But for the year, 7.072 million existing homes were sold, making 2005 the fifth record year in a row, the National Association of Realtors said...
Price gains have already begun to ease, the Realtors group said, noting price appreciation hit 16.6 percent in October and then slowed to 13 percent in November and 10.5 percent in December.
However, as Calculated Risk notes, mortgage application volume reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association is up from a week earlier and has been rebounding in January so far.
And on Monday, the Conference Board had reported that its US leading index increased 0.1 percent, suggesting that "the economy should continue expanding moderately in the near term".
Europe as a whole also looks headed for further growth, reports Bloomberg.
Business confidence in Germany, Europe's largest economy, rose to a five-year high this month as economic growth accelerated. The Ifo confidence index, based on a monthly survey of 7,000 executives, climbed to 102, a level last reached in May 2000, from a revised 99.7 in December...
Growth in the U.K. economy, Europe's second-largest, accelerated to 0.6 percent in the three months through Dec. 31, compared with 0.4 percent in the third quarter, the Office for National Statistics said. The annual rate held at 1.7 percent.
French business confidence remained unchanged for third month in January at the highest since February 2005. An index measuring sentiment among 2,000 manufacturers held at 103, unchanged from December's reading, which was revised from 102, statistics office Insee said today. Economists expected a level of 103, according to the median of 28 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey...
Inflation in Germany was unchanged at 2.1 percent this month, the Federal Statistics Office said today.
Germany's government today raised its growth forecast for 2006 on expectations exports will rise. The economy expanded 0.9 percent last year. The Economy Ministry said the growth will be 1.4 percent this year, better than its Oct. 21 forecast of 1.2 percent...
Italian consumer confidence fell for a second month in January as higher energy prices raised concern inflation would accelerate. An index based on a poll of 2,000 households by the Rome-based Isae Institute dropped to 106.4 from 108.2 in December, the biggest decline in six months...
Earlier, Eurostat had reported that industrial new orders had grown strongly in November.
The euro-zone industrial new orders index increased by 4.9% in November 2005 compared to October 2005. The index fell by 0.6% in October and rose by 1.7% in September. EU25 new orders increased by 3.4% in November 2005, after remaining stable in October and rising by 0.6% in September.
In November 2005 compared to November 2004, industrial new orders increased by 9.2% in the euro-zone and by 9.3% in the EU25.
Growth in Japan also continues to plod along, according to another Reuters report.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Tuesday its tertiary sector business activity index rose 0.1 percent in November from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis... [I]t followed an upward-revised 1.3 percent rise in October... The tertiary sector index was up 2.9 percent from a year earlier.
The all-industries index, which includes the tertiary sector and industrial output, rose 0.3 percent in November from the previous month... [T]he data supports expectations that Japan's economy continued steady growth...
The Reuters Tankan...produced a diffusion index (DI) of +33 for manufacturing firms in January, up from +32 in December and the highest since the survey began in June 1998. The index for non-manufacturers rose to +22 from +20 in the previous month, although heavy stock-market losses in the past week mean sentiment is probably less buoyant now than the survey suggests...
Separately, a Finance Ministry report on regional economies kept its overall assessment unchanged that a moderate recovery continued. Three regions upgraded their views, putting all regions in a recovery trend, a first since September 1997.
But Bloomberg reports today that Japan's trade surplus shrank in December:
Japan's trade surplus... shrank 19.3 percent to 914 billion yen ($7.9 billion), the Ministry of Finance said in a report released in Tokyo today. The median forecast of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for the surplus to narrow to 950 billion yen. Exports rose 17.5 percent and imports gained 27.3 percent.
...as did South Korea's:
South Korea's current account surplus narrowed to $541.6 million in December, the smallest in four months, as surging global crude prices raised the cost of importing oil.
The surplus compared with $2.2 billion in December 2004 and a revised $2.2 billion in November, the Bank of Korea said in a statement in Seoul today...
For all of last year, South Korea posted a current account surplus of $16.6 billion, the smallest in two years, less than the central bank's forecast of $17.5 billion.
The trade surplus, the biggest part of the current account, narrowed to $1.8 billion in December from $2.9 billion a year earlier. Exports climbed 10.8 percent to $25.7 billion on a customs-cleared basis, while imports rose 15.3 percent to $24.2 billion, today's report showed. Imports of oil rose 45.1 percent to $4.1 billion due to higher oil costs.
The fall in the trade surplus did not prevent South Korea's GDP from growing 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter -- 5.2 percent from a year earlier.
Of course, that growth rate is nothing compared to China's.
China's economy was elevated to the world's fourth biggest, overtaking France and Britain, after the government announced robust economic growth of 9.9 percent in 2005.
Fueled by booming investment and active consumer spending, China's gross domestic product (GDP) rose to 18.2 trillion yuan (2.3 trillion dollars) last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said.