Thursday, 14 September 2006

Some positive economic data amid more signs of cooling in China

The US housing market is collapsing. Or is it? Reuters reports the latest news on US home loan demand.

U.S. mortgage applications rose for a second consecutive week as demand for home purchase loans hit its highest in two months, an industry trade group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and purchasing loans, for the week ended Sept. 8 increased 3.2 percent to 584.2 from the previous week's 566.3, its highest since mid-May.

The UK economy has also been quite resilient recently, not least its job market. From Reuters:

Wednesday's data showed the number of people claiming jobless benefits fell by 3,900 in August, the biggest decline since January 2005.

Income growth was mixed though.

[A]verage earnings growth picked up to a weaker-than-expected 4.4 percent in the three months to July, leaving it just below the Bank of England's 4.5 percent tolerance level...

Still...Wednesday's data showed earnings growth was at its highest in over a year and followed a report by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation which showed wage growth for permanent staff at its fastest in two years.

Meanwhile house prices continue to surge, rising at their fastest pace in over two years in the three months to August, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Little wonder that homeowners are struggling to meet mortgage payments.

China's property market, on the other hand, could be showing signs of cooling, with the year-on-year growth rate of the average price of new homes growing 5.5 per cent in August compared to 5.8 per cent in June.

And this is occurring as China's industrial output in August rose 15.7 percent from the previous year, one percentage point lower than July and 3.8 percentage points lower than June.

But China's retail sales grew 13.8 percent in August, slightly up from July's 13.7 percent growth.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the current account surplus grew more than expected in July. Reuters reports:

The current account surplus grew 7.1 percent to 1.81 trillion yen ($15.35 billion), the highest level ever for July, data from the Ministry of Finance showed...

The surplus in the income account expanded 23.5 percent from a year earlier to 1.22 trillion yen as Japanese companies and investors reaped more returns from foreign investment they had made in the past.

The gains from overseas investment more than offset a narrowing trade surplus, which shrank 8.5 percent to 950.9 billion yen...

Soaring oil prices continued to inflate the nation's import bill, boosting imports by 19.0 percent...

Exports also rose 13.6 percent in July, suggesting the scenario of a slower U.S. economy curbing Japanese exports had yet to materialise.

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