Thursday, 25 May 2006

US durable goods orders fall, Canadian interest rates rise

On the whole, yesterday's economic data look a bit weaker than usual.

Reuters reports yesterday's economic data from the US, including the poor durable goods orders.

New orders for U.S.-made durable goods tumbled an unexpectedly large 4.8 percent in April...

Orders for durable items, those meant to last three years or longer, fell the most since January due to big declines in civilian aircraft and computer and electronic products orders.

Even with transportation goods stripped out, orders for durable goods were down 1.1 percent...

Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, viewed as a proxy for business spending, dropped a larger-than-expected 1.7 percent...

In contrast to the disappointing durable goods data, housing showed surprising strength.

New home sales rose a more-than-expected 4.9 percent... April's median home price rose 2.8 percent from March to $238,500.

But even in housing, it was not all positive.

Some analysts noted that in spite of gains in new home sales in April, downward revisions to data for five earlier months pointed to an overall cooling of a sector whose strength has contributed heavily to recent U.S. economic robustness...

[T]he April pace was down 5.7 percent from the year-ago rate...

A separate report from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed U.S. mortgage applications fell last week, driven by a steep decline in home buying loans despite a dip in long-term interest rates.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that factory orders fell in the UK too.

The Confederation of British Industry said its monthly manufacturing order books balance eased to -12 in May from -11 in April, lower than analysts' expectations for a reading of -9.

However, the CBI's export order books balance picked up sharply in May to zero from -13 in April -- the strongest since February 1996 when it was +1 -- driven by renewed demand for capital goods like aerospace equipment and industrial engines.

Elsewhere in Europe, German business confidence fell in May, although by less than expected. From Bloomberg:

Business confidence in Germany fell less than expected in May, indicating Europe's largest economy is weathering near-record oil prices and a rising euro.

The Ifo institute said its confidence index, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, slipped to 105.6 from a 15-year high of 105.9 in April. Economists expected a decline to 105, according to the median of 43 estimates in a Bloomberg survey...

In France, business confidence fell in May for the first time since April 2005, a government report showed yesterday...

In Japan, the service sector slowed in March. Reuters reports:

The tertiary sector index, a key gauge of activity in the services sector, fell 0.6 percent in March from the previous month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Wednesday.

Forecasts in a Reuters poll had centred on a fall of 0.4 percent. In February the index fell 1.4 percent, but for the January-March quarter it rose slightly...

The all-industries index, which covers a broader range of economic activity and includes the tertiary index, fell 0.4 percent from the previous month, compared with a median forecast of a 0.3 percent fall.

But in Canada, the composite leading indicator continued to increase, rising 0.5 percent in April after rising 0.6 percent gain in March. It was enough for the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates yesterday, although maybe not in the future.

The Bank of Canada raised its overnight interest rate on Wednesday by a quarter of a percentage point to 4.25 percent, as expected, but signaled an end to its nine-month tightening cycle.

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