Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Mixed inflation and other economic data

Yesterday's global economic data were mixed, not least those on inflation.

Reuters reports the economic news from the US.

The U.S. Labor Department said on Tuesday overall producer prices rose a steep 0.9 percent in April, but prices outside of the volatile food and energy areas rose just 0.1 percent for the second consecutive month.

Separately, the Commerce Department said housing starts fell 7.4 percent in April to a 1.849 million unit annual pace. It was the third straight monthly drop, taking starts to their lowest since November 2004.

But in a sign of vigor, a report from the Federal Reserve showed industrial output rose by a greater-than-expected 0.8 percent in April, pushing the percentage of industrial capacity employed to its highest since July 2000...

The pickup in output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities pushed the industrial capacity use rate up to 81.9 percent, the highest in more than 5-1/2 years.

Reuters reports a similar inflation story in the UK.

Office for National Statistics data on Tuesday showed consumer prices increased by 0.6 percent in April -- the biggest monthly rise in nearly five years -- taking the annual rate of inflation up to 2.0 percent, as expected, from 1.8 percent.

UK house prices also appear to be accelerating. Again from Reuters:

The RICS said its house prices balance rose for the sixth month in a row to +15 in the three months to April from a downwardly revised +12 in March...

The survey showed the number of inquiries from new would-be buyers rose in April for the 11th straight month, the longest stretch of rises since RICS began polling for that information in 1998. But it was the weakest growth since June 2005.

Stocks of available properties on surveyors' books fell to an average 71.4 in April from 72.1 in March -- their lowest level since October 2004.

Earlier, the Japanese government reported optimistic news on consumer confidence. From AFX/Forbes:

The consumer confidence index improved to 50.0 in April from 47.9 in March, rising for the first time in two months to its highest in nearly 16 years, the Cabinet Office said.

However, German investor confidence fell in May. From Bloomberg:

The ZEW Center for European Economic Research said in Mannheim today that the index of institutional and analyst expectations fell to 50 from 62.7 in April. It was the biggest decline since April 2005. Economists predicted a reading of 60, according to the median of 42 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. The measure reached a two-year high of 71 in January.

But industrial production in the euro zone grew in March.

Euro-region industrial production rose in March from February, a report from the European Union's statistics office in Luxembourg showed today. The euro economy expanded 0.6 percent in the first quarter from the fourth, when it grew 0.3 percent, the European Union's statistics office said last week.

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