Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Japan's machinery orders rise even as consumer confidence plunges

There were some contradictory reports from Japan on Monday.

AFP/CNA reports that Japan's core machinery orders were up in March.

Japan's core machinery orders, a leading indicator of corporate capital spending, posted a surprise rise in March despite the devastating earthquake and tsunami, data showed Monday.

The core private-sector machinery orders grew 2.9 percent from February, beating market expectations of a fall of more than nine percent due to the severity of the March 11 disaster...

Core machinery orders for the three months to March rose 3.5 percent from the previous quarter and are expected to rise a further 10.0 percent in the April-June term, according to the Cabinet Office.

However, consumer confidence plunged in April. Again from AFP/CNA:

Japanese consumer confidence fell at the fastest pace on record in April from the previous month, data showed Monday, after March's earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear crisis cast a shadow on the economy.

The data showed consumer sentiment worsening to a two-year low of 33.1 in April from 38.6 in March, when the index plunged after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake and a tsunami on March 11 that devastated the northeast coast.

In the euro area, April inflation was confirmed at 2.8 percent and Portugal had its bailout approved to help it stave off a sovereign debt crisis.

Meanwhile, the US is also having its own debt problem. From Reuters:

U.S. Treasury investors were calm on Monday as the United States hit its debt limit, with prices rising on faith lawmakers will reach a deal to increase the debt ceiling before a default...

The U.S. Treasury Department said it can stave off default until early August, in part by tapping federal pension funds, as the nation reached its $14.294 trillion debt limit.

Relatively weak US economic data on Monday helped keep bond prices up. From Bloomberg:

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index fell to 11.9 from a one-year high of 21.7 in April, the central bank reported today. Measures of orders and sales fell less than the headline reading, while managers were more upbeat about the future and the group’s hiring index climbed to the second-highest level on record...

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo sentiment index held at 16 this month, data from the Washington- based group showed. A measure of sales expectations for the next six months fell to an eight-month low.

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