Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Cooling, for now

There were signs of cooling in the global economy yesterday.

The National Association of Realtors reports that existing-home sales and prices declined in August.

Total existing-home sales...slipped 0.5 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.30 million units from a level of 6.33 million July. Sales were 12.6 percent lower than the 7.21 million-unit pace in August 2005, which was the second highest on record...

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $225,000 in August, down 1.7 percent from August 2005 when the median was $229,000...

Total housing inventory levels rose 1.5 percent at the end of August to 3.92 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.5-month supply at the current sales pace — the highest supply since April 1993.

In Europe, business confidence fell in France in September. Bloomberg reports:

French business confidence fell in September after industrial production in Europe's third-largest economy declined.

Insee's index of sentiment among 2,000 manufacturers in Europe's third-largest economy dropped to 107 from a revised 108 in July, the national statistics office said today in Paris. Economists expected a decline to 108 from the originally reported reading of 109, according to the median of 22 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

Bloomberg also reports that in Germany, the inflation rate dropped in September.

The inflation rate in Germany, Europe's largest economy, dropped to the lowest level in more than 2 years in September after oil prices retreated from a record.

Consumer prices rose 1.1 percent from a year earlier after increasing 1.8 percent in August, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said in a faxed statement, using a harmonized European Union method. Economists expected an inflation rate of 1.2 percent, according to the median of 28 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. From August, consumer prices fell 0.4 percent.

In Asia, Singapore reported that consumer prices were flat in August. From Channel NewsAsia:

Singapore's consumer prices rose at a slower-than-expected pace in August, as falling prices for cars and gasoline outweighed rising costs for food and housing.

The Department of Statistics said on Monday that the consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.7 percent from a year earlier.

Last month's annual increase was the slowest rise in nearly a year.

However the August CPI was unchanged from July in seasonally adjusted terms after rising 0.2 percent in July from June.

Yesterday, though, the decline in oil prices came to a halt. Reuters reports:

Oil rebounded above $62 on Monday, after briefly sliding to a six-month low on abundant supplies in top consumer the United States and fears that slower U.S. economic growth would stunt fuel demand.

U.S. crude settled up 90 cents at $61.45 a barrel on short covering, after sliding as low as $59.52 and as high as $62.15. London Brent rose 39 cents to $60.80 a barrel...

Metals prices also rebounded from weeks of sharp losses, with gold up 50 cents to $595.90 an ounce and copper up 0.40 cent to $3.4475 a pound.

And don't expect further measures to cool the Chinese economy for now. From The Standard:

A State Council-level government economist predicts new measures to rein in rapid economic growth are unlikely because fresh signs are emerging that fixed-asset investment is slowing and the rise in property prices has moderated.

In an exclusive interview with The Standard and its sister publication Singtao Daily in Beijing Friday, Qiu Xiaohua said macroeconomic measures taken by the central government so far this year in an attempt to cool overheated economic sectors have started to bite, so further tightening measures are not needed.

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