Japan's growth rate slowed surprisingly sharply in the second quarter. From CNA:
The Japanese economy grew for the sixth consecutive quarter but at a slower than expected pace of 0.2 percent growth for April to June.
The April to June expansion of 0.2 percent was half the figure widely anticipated.
Growth slipped mainly due to weaker exports as the slowdown in the US economy led to lower external demand.
Less surprising was the Bank of Japan's decision to leave interest rates unchanged. From AFP/CNA:
The nine-member policy board voted unanimously to keep its benchmark interest rate at 0.25 percent, as widely expected by analysts who doubted the bank would tighten credit quickly.
"I can't deny the possibility of raising the key rate again this year, but at the same time, I don't have any intention of suggesting another rate hike," Bank of Japan governor Toshihiko Fukui told a news conference.
The US also pulled off a surprise -- a positive one -- in retail sales. From Reuters:
U.S. consumers spent heartily in July on goods ranging from cars to electronics as sales at retail stores rose a greater-than-expected 1.4 percent, a government report on Friday showed, suggesting the economy still had spark.
It was the biggest increase since January, according to the Commerce Department, and well above the 0.8 percent gain economists polled by Reuters were expecting.
Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales rose 1.0 percent, again the biggest rise since January and exceeding the 0.5 percent increase Wall Street economists had forecast...
Separately, the Labor Department on Friday said import prices rose 0.9 percent in July, slightly more than expectations, as petroleum costs jumped sharply.
Business inventories in June rose a greater-than-expected 0.8 percent, according to the Commerce Department.
The news from Europe was mixed. Bloomberg reports an acceleration in French growth:
France's economy grew the most in five years in the second quarter as exports rose and the soccer World Cup spurred consumer spending.
Gross domestic product rose as much as 1.2 percent from the first quarter, when it gained 0.5 percent, the national statistics office, Insee, said today in Paris. Economists predicted a 0.7 percent increase, according to the median of 28 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.
... France's inflation rate held at 2.2 percent in July, a separate Insee report showed today.
But Italy's growth rate slowed.
... In Italy, growth slowed to 0.5 percent in the second quarter from a revised 0.7 percent in the first, a separate report showed today.
There were also mixed signals in China. Producer price inflation was maintained in July, with industrial producer prices increasing by 3.6 percent over the same period in 2005. However, consumer price inflation moderated to one percent, 0.5 percentage point lower than that in June, thanks to slower growth in food prices.