So much for the strong end to 2006 for the US economy. Reuters reports the latest economic data from the US.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of overall economic activity within U.S. borders, expanded at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006. That was revised down from the 3.5 percent advance in the government's prior estimate...
On the inflation front, the closely watched personal consumption expenditures price index declined by a 0.9 percent rate, the biggest fall since 1954, as energy prices dropped.
The core PCE price index, which strips out volatile food and energy prices and is closely watched at the Fed, rose 1.9 percent, a bit below the 2.1 percent gain first estimated...
A separate Commerce Department report showed a 16.6 percent decline in sales of new homes in January, the largest decrease since January 1994...
Business activity in the U.S. Midwest slumped again in February, continuing a contraction begun in January, the National Association of Purchasing Management-Chicago's report showed.
The group said its business barometer slid to 47.9 from 48.8 in January. A reading below 50 indicates contraction. The index had been above that mark since mid-2003 until January's fall.
The data from Japan were also negative. From Bloomberg:
Japan's industrial production declined the most in almost three years in January, signaling growth may slow in the world's second-largest economy.
Output fell a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent from December, when it rose to a record, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in Tokyo today. The median estimate of 41 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 1.7 percent drop...
Manufacturers said production will decline 1.8 percent in February from a month earlier, today's report showed. They anticipate output to rise 2.4 percent in March from February.
And retail sales, as usual, provided little consolation.
Japan's retail sales fell 0.8 percent in January from a year earlier, the trade ministry said in a separate report today.
But yesterday's data from Europe were much better. From Bloomberg:
An index of sentiment among executives and consumers in the euro area increased to 109.7 from 109.2 in January, the European Commission in Brussels said today. Unemployment fell to 7.4 percent in January, a record low, and the inflation rate unexpectedly declined to 1.8 percent, separate reports showed.
This as FT reports that eurozone money supply growth rate hit a 17-year high of 9.8 percent.
UK data were somewhat mixed though. Data reported by Reuters indicate that mortgage lending remains robust.
The British Bankers Association said approvals for home loans fell to 37,804 in January from 45,039 a year ago -- a drop of 16 percent. Approvals figures are considered a good indicator of future house price inflation.
The BBA said the fall was exacerbated by the fact that several major banking groups cleared expired loan approvals from their books last month, and did not reflect a sudden sharp drop in demand for mortgages.
The BBA confirmed that underlying net mortgage lending rose 5.6 billion pounds in January, similar to the robust monthly average over the last six months.
And robust lending is keeping the housing market up, according to another Reuters story.
House prices rose 0.7 percent this month after a rise of 0.3 percent in January, according to Nationwide figures.
The figures were stronger than many analysts were expecting...
Land Registry figures on Wednesday also showed property prices rose robustly at the start of the year. But analysts stuck with forecasts that the market would moderate over the year due to higher interest rates and affordability constraints.
But consumer sentiment slipped in February.
Research company GfK said its consumer confidence index fell to -8 in February from -7 in January as consumers planned to save more and grew more cautious about making big purchases.