Friday, 23 April 2010

US existing home sales rise in March

Bloomberg reports the US economic data released on Thursday.

Sales of U.S. previously owned homes rose in March for the first time in four months as buyers took advantage of a government tax credit and the weather improved.

Purchases climbed 6.8 percent to a 5.35 million annual rate, exceeding the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, data from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington...

Initial jobless applications dropped by 24,000 to 456,000 in the week ended April 17, the Labor Department reported. Distortions associated with the Easter holiday contributed to pushing up claims in the prior two weeks, the government said.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 460,250 from 457,500...

The Labor Department also reported producer prices in March rose 0.7 percent, pushed up by the biggest gain in food costs since 1984. Excluding food and energy, wholesale prices rose 0.1 percent for a second month, signaling inflation is contained...

A report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency in Washington showed prices fell 3.4 percent in February from a year earlier. The data cover sales that conform to government agency standards, meaning the figures do not reflect all transactions.

In the UK, Times Online reports that retail sales were up in March but by less than expected.

Retail sales grew by much less than expected in March, denting hopes that economic growth may have gained momentum in the first three months.

The volume of goods sold on the high street rose 0.4 per cent last month after a 2.5 per cent rise in February, while the closely watched measure of sales excluding fuel edged up only 0.2 per cent.

And UK industry orders improved slightly, according to a Reuters reports:

Factory orders remained weak in April, but firms were their most optimistic in two years about raising output in the coming months, the CBI's monthly Industrial Trends survey showed on Thursday.

The Confederation of British Industry survey's total order book balance improved only slightly this month to -36 from -37 in March, below expectations for a reading of -34.

The euro area released surprisingly buoyant data on Thursday. From Bloomberg:

Europe’s services and manufacturing industries expanded more than economists forecast in April as an export-led recovery prompted companies to step up production.

A composite index based on a survey of euro-area purchasing managers in both industries rose to 57.3 from 55.9 in March, London-based Markit Economics said today. That’s the highest since August 2007. Economists forecast an unchanged reading, the median of 12 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed.

And eurozone consumer confidence improved according to another Bloomberg report:

European consumer confidence improved to the highest in almost two years in April, suggesting an export-led recovery may start to feed into household spending.

An index of consumer sentiment in the 16-nation euro region rose to minus 15.2 from a revised minus 17.3 in March, the Brussels-based European Commission said today in an initial estimate. That’s the highest since May 2008...

But Greece's debt problem remains a serious concern. From Reuters:

Greece's budget gap last year was worse than feared, the European Union's statistics office revealed on Thursday, and Moody's Investors Service downgraded its rating of Greek government debt.

The news triggered a fresh slide in the asset prices of Greece and other debt-choked European countries, and increased pressure on Athens to seek billions of euros of emergency loans from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

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