Saturday, 26 February 2011

US and UK economic growth weaker than expected

Reuters reports that the US economy grew less than previously estimated in the fourth quarter.

Gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said, a downward revision from its initial 3.2 percent estimate a month ago. Economists had expected GDP growth to be revised up to a 3.3 percent pace...

The government's measure of fourth-quarter growth was lowered to reflect a contraction in government spending that was more than double the initial estimate.

The good news, however, is that consumer confidence hit a three-year high in February.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey's index on consumer sentiment climbed to 77.5, the highest since January 2008, from 74.2 in January -- indicating consumers were weathering higher gasoline prices for now amid optimism about the labor market.

The UK economy's fourth quarter performance has also been downgraded. Reuters reports:

The economy suffered an even sharper slump than expected at the end of last year and would have shrunk slightly even without December's bad weather, official data showed on Friday...

Friday's official data showed Britain's economy shrank by 0.6 percent between October and December, surprising analysts who thought last month's preliminary estimate of a 0.5 percent contraction would be unrevised.

UK consumer confidence also rose in February, although it is near a 22-month low. Again from Reuters:

Consumer confidence edged higher this month from January's 22-month low after a slight recovery in shoppers' personal financial situation and willingness to make big purchases, a survey showed on Friday.

The GfK NOP consumer confidence index rose to -28 from January's -29, but is well below the level of -14 this time last year as shoppers face rising prices and sluggish wage growth, while public-sector spending cuts put jobs at risk.

Also getting less negative is Japan's inflation rate. From AFP/CNA:

Japan's core consumer price index fell 0.2 per cent from a year earlier in January, government data showed Friday...

But the result for the core nationwide CPI, which excludes volatile fresh food prices, was slightly better than the consensus forecast for a 0.3 per cent decline.

The government said higher prices for petrol and kerosene - often used for home heating - were the main reasons for the slightly higher figure. The nationwide price index fell 0.4 per cent in December.

There are no worries about deflation in Russia, where the central bank finally moved to raise interest rates on Friday. From Bloomberg:

Russia’s central bank unexpectedly lifted the refinancing rate from a record low, the first increase since December 2008, and boosted reserve requirements for a second month to curb inflation.

Bank Rossii raised its main rates 0.25 percentage point, boosting the refinancing rate to 8 percent, the overnight deposit rate to 3 percent and the overnight auction-based repo rate to 5.25 percent, it said today in a statement on its website. Economists expected the refinancing and the repo rates to be left unchanged and the deposit rate to rise, according to the median estimate of 18 economists in a Bloomberg survey.

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