Thursday, 25 March 2010

Japanese exports surge, Portugal's credit rating cut

Japan's economic recovery continued in February. From AFP/CNA:

Japan's exports soared at the fastest pace in about three decades last month, helping the world's number two economy to extend a recovery from the worst recession in decades, data showed Wednesday...

Exports in February leapt 45.3 percent to 5.13 trillion yen (56 billion US dollars), the fastest year-on-year growth since April 1980, according to the finance ministry...

Last month Japan's trade surplus surged more than nine-fold to 651.0 billion yen (7.2 billion US dollars) from 70.8 billion a year earlier, topping market expectations...

Imports increased 29.5 percent to 4.48 trillion yen owing to higher prices of oil and nonferrous metals.

There were also positive data out of Europe on Wednesday. From Bloomberg:

Europe’s services and manufacturing industries grew at the fastest pace since 2007 and German business confidence jumped as the economy rebounded from a fourth-quarter relapse.

A composite index based on a survey of euro-area purchasing managers in both industries rose to 55.5 in March from 53.7 in February, London-based Markit Economics said today. That’s the highest since August 2007. The Ifo institute’s business climate index for Europe’s largest economy jumped more than economists projected to 98.1 from 95.2. The gauge measuring executive’s expectations soared to the highest since June 2007.

However, industrial new orders in the euro area fell by 2.0 percent in January.

And things could yet get worse for the euro area after another sovereign debt downgrade. From Bloomberg:

Portugal’s credit grade was cut by Fitch Ratings for the first time, underscoring growing concern that Europe’s weakest economies will struggle to meet their debt commitments as finances deteriorate.

The rating was lowered one step to AA- with a “negative” outlook, Fitch said in a statement today, adding that further economic or fiscal underperformance this year or in 2011 may lead to another downgrade. The euro extended its decline, dropping against all but one of the 16 most-traded currencies. Portuguese stocks and bonds fell.

Meanwhile, data out of the US were mixed on Wednesday. From Bloomberg:

Orders for durable goods rose in February for a third month and new-home sales fell to the lowest on record, indicating manufacturing will stay at the forefront of the economic recovery.

The 0.5 percent increase in bookings for long-lasting goods followed a 3.9 percent surge the prior month, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Excluding transportation equipment, orders advanced more than anticipated. Sales of new homes fell 2.2 percent to an annual pace of 308,000 in February, the Commerce Department reported.

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