Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Signs of slowing

Yesterday's economic data weren't so hot.

Reuters reports that the US economy is showing signs of slowing.

Tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions struck energy markets, causing oil prices to finish above $70 a barrel for the first time ever. Stocks were broadly lower with oil and gasoline prices on a tear...

The New York Federal Reserve's measure of manufacturing activity slumped to 15.81 in April from a downwardly revised 29.03 in March and far short of economists' median forecast of 24.50...

In a separate report from the National Association of Home Builders, U.S. home builder sentiment showed a drop this month to 50 from a downwardly revised 54 in March, the lowest since November 2001...

Chicago Fed President Michael Moskow warned in a speech on Monday that if U.S. economic growth is more robust than expected, inflation could increase...

High U.S. interest rates relative to other major economies so far has attracted foreign investors who in February, according to a report from the Treasury Department, poured a net $86.9 billion into U.S. financial assets compared with an upwardly revised $69.1 billion in January.

The housing market in the UK also appears to be slowing again. From Times Online:

House prices rose last month for the fifth month in a row, but the pace of increase slowed, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said.

The RICS said that 13 per cent more sellers had reported a rise in prices than experienced a fall in prices in their area last month. This was weaker than the 16 per cent in February, indicating that price rises had slowed for the first time since early last year. The report said that new sellers had entered the property market last month at their fastest pace since last June, driving up activity and causing a slight rise in the proportion of stocks of homes on surveyors’ books.

Figures from Rightmove, the property website, for the four weeks to early April told a similar story. Although it said that house prices had risen 1.1 per cent, up from 0.9 per cent from the previous month, the year-on-year figures showed a slowing in the rate of property inflation, to 4.1 per cent in April from 4.3 per cent in March.

And industrial output and consumer confidence in Japan actually fell month-on-month.

Japan's February industrial output fell a revised 1.2 percent from January, less than previously thought, official figures showed on Monday.

Industrial production was up 3.9 percent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

In an initial estimate released last month, the ministry had reported a 1.7 percent drop in output in February and a year-on-year gain of 3.7 percent. The ministry said the revision was the result of changes to calculation methods...

A separate government survey showed Monday that consumer confidence in Japan declined for the first time in three months, falling to 47.9 points in March from 49.8 in February.

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