Thursday, 11 June 2009

Mixed economic data

Wednesday's economic reports were mixed.

In the US, the trade deficit widened in April, according to a Reuters report.

The U.S. trade gap widened to $29.2 billion in April as exports weakened again in a reflection of waning global demand, a U.S. government report on Wednesday showed.

The Commerce Department said total exports fell 2.3 percent to $121.1 billion, the lowest level for foreign sales since mid-2006...

Imports declined in April for a ninth straight month but by a smaller amount than exports, down 1.4 percent to $150.3 billion.

But the Fed's beige book shows signs that the slide in the economy is easing.

In Europe, France reported that industrial production fell by 1.4 percent in April but Italy reported that industrial production rose 1.1 percent in April, offsetting somewhat a worse-than-expected downward revision in first quarter GDP growth to minus 2.6 percent.

The UK also reported a rise in industrial production. Reuters reports:

British industrial output rose for the first time in over a year in April after a jump in oil and pharmaceuticals production, raising the prospect that the economy could already be out of recession...

The Office for National Statistics said industrial output...rose 0.3 percent on the month -- the first increase since February 2008 and better than the 0.1 percent decline economists had expected...

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimated after the data that Britain's economy returned to growth in April, expanding by roughly 0.2 percent over the month and another 0.1 percent in May.

There have also been unofficial reports that Chinese industrial production rebounded in May.

However, prospects for Japan's economic recovery encountered a setback on Wednesday. Bloomberg reports:

Orders for Japanese machinery fell to a 22-year low and producer prices tumbled the most since 1987 as dwindling profits forced companies to cut costs amid the worst postwar recession.

Bookings, an indicator of capital investment in the next three to six months, fell 5.4 percent to 688.8 billion yen ($7.1 billion) in April, the lowest since 1987, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. Wholesale prices, the costs companies pay for energy and raw materials, slid 5.4 percent in May from a year earlier, the Bank of Japan said.

Still, a report today shows that Japan's contraction has not been quite as bad as previously reported. Again from Bloomberg:

Japan’s economy shrank at a record 14.2 percent annual pace last quarter as exports and business investment plummeted.

The contraction in gross domestic product was smaller than the 15.2 percent estimated last month, revised figures from the Cabinet Office showed today in Tokyo. The fourth quarter contraction was revised to 13.5 percent from 14.4 percent.

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