US housing starts saw a small rebound in March. Bloomberg reports:
A gain in March housing starts failed to make up for ground lost the prior month, as U.S. home builders continue to struggle almost two years into the economic recovery.
Work began on 549,000 houses at an annual pace, up 7.2 percent from the prior month and exceeding the 520,000 median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. Starts fell 19 percent in February to the lowest level in almost two years.
Meanwhile, the eurozone economy continues to show resilience. From Bloomberg:
European services and manufacturing growth unexpectedly accelerated in April, suggesting the region’s economy is weathering surging energy costs and tougher austerity measures.
A composite index based on a survey of euro-area purchasing managers in both industries rose to 57.8 from 57.6 in March, London-based Markit Economics said in a statement today. Economists had projected a drop to 57, the median of 13 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed. A reading above 50 indicates growth...
The euro-area services indicator fell to 56.9 from 57.2 in March, Markit said in the preliminary release. The manufacturing gauge increased to 57.7 from 57.5. In Germany, which has fueled the region’s recovery, an indicator of manufacturing rose to 61.7 from 60.9 in March, while a services gauge slipped to 57.7 from 60.1. French manufacturing growth also quickened.
However, consumer confidence in the euro area weakened in April. Bloomberg reports:
European consumer confidence weakened more than economists forecast in April as surging energy costs sapped households’ spending power and countries from Ireland to Spain cut spending to lower budget deficits.
An index of household sentiment in the 17-nation euro area fell for a second month to minus 11.4 from minus 10.6 in March, the Brussels-based European Commission said in an initial estimate today. That’s the lowest since August. Economists forecast a drop to minus 11, the median of 22 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed.
Consumer confidence had also, unsurprisingly, fallen in Japan in March. AFP/CNA reports:
Japanese consumer confidence fell in March from the previous month to its lowest since June 2009 as a record earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear crisis cast a shadow on the economy.
Japan's consumer sentiment index fell to 38.6 in the month, from a seasonally adjusted 41.2 in February, data from the Cabinet Office showed.
And to make matters worse for Japan, Bloomberg reports today that exports also fell.
Japan’s exports fell for the first time in more than a year, underscoring concern that the economy will shrink after the nation’s record earthquake killed thousands, knocked out plants, and triggered a nuclear crisis.
Overseas shipments declined 2.2 percent in March from a year earlier, from February’s 9 percent gain, the Finance Ministry said in Tokyo today. The median estimate of 19 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 1.1 percent drop.