Japan's trade balance sank back into deficit in January. AFP/CNA reports:
Japan posted its first trade deficit in almost two years last month, officials said Wednesday, amid rising commodity prices and weak demand for its exports ahead of China's Lunar New Year holiday.
The finance ministry said exports, a key driver of Japan's economy, rose just 1.4 per cent in January - the 14th consecutive month of growth, but a well off the 13 per cent on-year surge in December.
That came as instability in the Middle East and North Africa pushed the price of oil and other commodities up amid concerns supplies could be cut, sending resource-poor Japan's import bill up 12.4 per cent.
There was better news from Europe. From Bloomberg:
European industrial orders unexpectedly rose in December as surging demand for capital goods such as machines helped offset a slump in Germany.
Orders in the euro area increased 2.1 percent from November, when they gained a revised 2.2 percent, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today. Economists had forecast a drop of 1 percent, the median of 16 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed. From a year earlier, December orders jumped 19 percent.
Bloomberg also reports positive news from the US.
Sales of U.S. previously owned homes unexpectedly climbed in January to the highest level in eight months as investors used all-cash transactions to snap up distressed properties.
Purchases increased 2.7 percent to a 5.36 million annual rate, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. The share represented by foreclosures and short sales rose to a 12-month high, pushing the median price to the lowest level in almost nine years.