Saturday, 12 February 2011

US consumer confidence and trade deficit increase

US consumer confidence is recovering gradually. Bloomberg reports:

Consumer confidence rose in February to the highest level in eight months as decreasing unemployment lifted Americans’ spirits.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment for the month climbed to 75.1 from 74.2 in January, in line with the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News...

Along with an improving economy comes a widening trade deficit, although oil was the main culprit in December.

Also today, a report from the Commerce Department showed the trade deficit widened in December for a second month as the cost of imported oil climbed to the highest level in two years.

The gap grew 5.9 percent to $40.6 billion, in line with the $40.5 billion median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Excluding petroleum, the shortfall shrank to $15.3 billion, the smallest since March...

Exports increased 1.8 percent to $163 billion, the most since July 2008, led by sales of autos, chemicals and industrial machines.

China has been an important destination for US exports but this trend could be affected if China keeps tightening policy. From AFP/CNA on Friday:

China's central bank has ordered some small and medium-sized banks to raise their reserves in the latest in a series of such hikes aimed at reining in inflation, state media said on Friday.

The reserve requirement ratio hike, which effectively reduces the amount of money banks can lend, is mainly targeted at regional institutions, the state-run China Securities Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.

The increase took effect this week, the report said without naming the affected banks or specifying the size of the hike.

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