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14.02.2009 12:40 The euro zone economy saw its deepest contraction on record in the fourth quarter of 2008

The euro zone economy saw its deepest contraction on record in the fourth quarter of 2008, data showed, boosting pressure on the European Central Bank to cut interest rates by 50 basis points in three weeks. Gross domestic product in the 15 countries using the euro in the last three months of 2008 shrank 1.5 percent against the previous quarter for a 1.2 percent fall year-on-year, the European Union statistics office Eurostat said. "Now it`s official: the euro zone economy is in its deepest recession since the end of the Second World War," said Christoph Weil, economist at Commerzbank. "The collapse of exports and a sharp fall in investments were most probably the main reasons for the slump," he said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 1.3 percent quarterly drop after 0.2 percent contractions in the second and third quarters, and a 1.1 percent year-on-year decline. "This Friday the 13th is living up to its name. Eurostat has just released `scary` GDP numbers," said Martin van Vliet, economist at ING. "The best we can hope is that the fourth quarter marked the worst quarter in terms of the pace of contraction," he said.

12.02.2009 21:00 Industrial production down by 12.0% in euro area and by 11.5% in the EU27

In December 2008 compared with November 2008, seasonally adjusted industrial production fell by 2.6% in the euro area (EA15) and by 2.3% in the EU27. In November production decreased by 2.2% in both zones. In December 2008 compared with December 2007, industrial production declined by 12.0% in the euro area and by 11.5% in the EU27. Compared with 2007, the average industrial production index for 2008 fell by 1.7% in the euro area and by 1.6% in the EU27. These estimates are released by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. In December 2008 compared with November 2008, production of energy rose by 1.1% in the euro area and by 0.8% in the EU27. Non-durable consumer goods fell by 0.9% and 0.8% respectively. Capital goods decreased by 2.5% in the euro area and by 2.8% in the EU27. Durable consumer goods dropped by 2.8% and 3.0% respectively. Intermediate goods declined by 5.7% in the euro area and by 5.2% in the EU27. Among the Member States for which data are available for December 2008, industrial production fell in nineteen and rose only in Lithuania (+1.1%). The most significant falls were registered in Slovakia (-12.7%), Ireland (-10.2%), Romania (-8.6%) and Germany (-4.9%). In December 2008 compared with December 2007, production of energy fell by 3.3% in both the euro area and the EU27. Non-durable consumer goods decreased by 3.9% and 4.1% respectively. Capital goods declined by 11.7% in the euro area and by 12.2% in the EU27. Durable consumer goods dropped by 14.5% and 14.1% respectively. Intermediate goods fell by 20.3% in the euro area and by 19.2% in the EU27. In December 2008, industrial production fell in all Member States for which data are available. The largest decreases were registered in Estonia (-20.7%), Spain (-19.6%), Sweden (-18.4%), Romania and Slovenia (both -17.5%).

07.02.2009 11:32 Russia`s foreign trade balance expanded 32 percent in 2008 reaching roughly $201.155bn

Russia`s foreign trade balance expanded 32 percent in 2008 reaching roughly $201.155bn, the Federal Customs Service said. Foreign trade grew 33.2 percent to nearly $734.992bn, with exports rising 33 percent to $468.073bn, and imports 33.6 percent to $266.918bn. In the fourth quarter of 2008 alone, foreign trade balance stood at 32.278bn. Foreign trade, however, shrank 5.4 percent compared with the same period a year earlier, to $162.275bn. Exports dropped 10.5 percent to $97.277bn, while imports inched up 3.4 percent. The country`s top statistics body said Russia`s gross domestic product grew 5.6%YoY in 2008. Russia`s Economic Development Ministry earlier revised its 2008 GDP growth from 6.0% to 5.6%. Russia`s economy grew 8.1% in 2007 and the government expected GDP to grow 7.8% in 2008 but had to lower its forecast to 6.0% due to the global financial crisis. Mr Alexei Kudrin Finance Minister said Russia`s GDP growth will be close to zero and budgetary revenues could decline 40% in 2009 amid the ongoing global financial crisis. He said that "Budgetary revenues will decline by RUB 4.4 trillion or more than 5.4% of GDP, suggesting Russia`s budgetary revenues could decline from RUB 10.9 trillion to RUB 6.5 trillion. He said Russia would have to spend a significant portion of its reserve funds to cover the 2009 budget deficit, and increase borrowing in 2010-2011.

01.02.2009 17:59 The US economy contracted by an annualized 3.8 per cent in the final quarter of 2008

The US economy contracted by an annualized 3.8 per cent in the final quarter of 2008, according to advance estimates released on Jan 30, a much smaller percentage than expected but still its worst performance since 1982. The decline, led by a build-up in inventories Ц which boosted GDP by 1.3 percentage points Ц offered little hope for an economic turnaround, since production is likely to continue to slow as companies seek to draw down their stock. The fourth-quarter contraction follows a contraction of 0.5 per cent in the previous quarter. The decline in growth was broad based, with consumption falling at an annualized rate of 3.5 per cent and sales of motor vehicles, food, and furniture and equipment significantly down, according to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Government efforts to boost the economy were less effective than in the third quarter. Fourth-quarter federal government spending boosted growth 0.4 percentage points, compared with 1.1 percentage points the quarter before.

28.01.2009 21:20 Russia`s GDP grew 6.0 percent in 2008, but contracted 0.7 percent in December

Russia`s economy contracted 0.7 percent in December, Interfax news agency reported on Monday, quoting an unnamed source. The December decline reins in full-year 2008 growth to 6.0 percent, broadly in line with expectations and down from 8.1 percent in 2007, Interfax reported. It also said that capital investment in Russia fell 2.3 percent in December. Russia`s economy will contract by 0.2 percent this year, deputy economy minister Andrei Klepach said, slashing an earlier forecast that called for 2.4 percent growth in 2009, from around 6 percent in 2008. "I confirm these numbers," Klepach told Reuters by phone, confirming a report on the revisions by Russia`s Interfax news agency. The forecast revisions, based on a new and sharply lower average oil price assumption of $41 per barrel, still see a $24 billion trade surplus in 2009, due to rapidly shrinking imports. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this week ordered officials to recalculate the 2009 budget taking into account the lower oil price. The new budget is likely to have a deficit, which Russia plans to cover from its rainy day oil funds. Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina said earlier she saw the rouble at an average of 35.1 to the dollar in 2009, according to the forecast.

21.01.2009 21:45 Inflation in Russia has been 1.2% so far this year, against 1.8% for the same period last year

Inflation in Russia has been 1.2% so far this year, against 1.8% for the same period last year, the Federal Statistics Service said. Between January 13 and January 19 consumer prices increased 0.4%. According to government officials and experts, inflation for the whole of January is expected to be lower than in January 2008 but could rise in February. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Monday that Russian consumer prices could grow 13% in 2009. In 2008, Russia`s inflation reached 13.3%, according to the Federal Statistics Service. Russia`s consumer prices could grow 13% in 2009, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said at the Asian Financial Forum. In 2008, Russia`s inflation reached 13.3%, according to Russia`s state statistics service, Kudrin said on the first day of the two-day forum in Hong Kong. "We expected it [inflation] to fall to 11%, but in connection with [the ruble`s] devaluation which will affect the growth of prices for imports, we now expect it to be around 13%," said Kudrin, who is also a deputy prime minister.

18.01.2009 19:26 U.S. Industrial Production Fell 2% in December 2008, Led by Autos

U.S. industrial production fell twice as much as forecast in December as companies pulled back to try to weather the global economic slowdown. Auto output fell to the lowest in more than a quarter century. Output at factories, mines and utilities dropped 2 percent, after a revised decline of 1.3 percent in November that was more than double the previously reported decrease, the Federal Reserve said in Washington. Plant use matched the lowest level since 1983. Factories are reducing output and spending as export demand drops and U.S. retail sales endure the longest string of declines in at least 16 years. Industrial production was projected to drop 1 percent, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 77 economists. Estimates of the decline ranged from 0.2 percent to 2.5 percent. Capacity utilization, or the proportion of plants in use, fell to 73.6 percent, matching the lowest level since April 1983, from 75.2 percent in November. Last month`s plant use rate was 7.4 percentage points below the average level for 1972 to 2007, the Fed said. Economists had forecast plant use would fall to 74.5 percent, according to the Bloomberg survey. Factory output, which accounts for about four-fifths of industrial production, decreased 2.3 percent, led by a 7.2 percent decline in production of autos and parts. Production of consumer durable goods, including autos, furniture and electronics, fell 4.7 percent. Utility production decreased 0.1 percent after rising 1 percent a month earlier. Mining output, which includes oil drilling, dropped 1.6 percent after a 2.2 percent increase.

17.01.2009 13:05 Eurozone industrial production declined 7.7% year-on-year in November 2008

Eurozone industrial production continued to decline for the seventh consecutive month in November, official data showed. Elsewhere, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD forecast deepening recession in the euro area. Data released by the Eurostat showed that industrial production declined 7.7% year-on-year in November, following a 5.7% drop in October, which was revised from 5.3% fall originally reported. The November decline was quicker than expected drop of 6.1%. On a monthly basis, industrial production declined 1.6% in November after falling at the same pace in October. Economists had expected a 2.1% fall in November, while the decrease recorded in October was revised from a 1.2% fall reported initially. With the latest fall, industrial production declined for the third straight month. In November, production of non-durable consumer goods grew 0.1% month-on-month and that of energy decreased 1.5%. Output of capital goods declined 1.8% followed by 2.4% fall in durable consumer goods production. Intermediate goods production fell by 2.8% in both zones. Among the member states for which data were available for November 2008, industrial production fell in eighteen and rose only in Ireland and Greece. The most significant falls were registered in Slovenia, Estonia, Slovakia and Portugal.

13.01.2009 20:51 EBRD said the Eurasian economies are expected to see a slowing of growth in 2009

The Russian economy and the Eurasian economies are expected to see a slowing of growth in 2009, as a consequence of falling prices for oil and other commodities, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) forecasted. EBRD said Russian GDP will grow 3-4 percent in 2009 compared to 7.3 percent in 2008. The Ukraine economy will grow 1.0 percent this year - the lowest pace in the region. The Kazakh economy is forecasted to grow on average by between 2.7% and 4.1% a year from 2009-2013. GDP per capita is projected to reach just over $13,000, considerably lower than the earlier forecast of $15,737. This follows almost a decade during which GDP growth averaged just under 10% a year. The much lower forecasts are a consequence of the dramatic decrease in the prices for oil and other commodities, which make up the bulk of Kazakhstan`s exports, since mid-2008. In Uzbekistan, EBRD forecasts a gradual decline in GDP growth from 9.5% in 2007, to 8% in 2008 and 7% in 2009. Azerbaijan, which saw a stunning 23.4% expansion of the economy in 2007, has a growth forecast of 17% in 2008 and 15% in 2009. Countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which are less dependent on commodity exports, have also come under pressure due to the slowdown in their trading partners Ц chiefly Russia and Kazakhstan. The smaller CIS economies are also expected to see a contraction in remittance payments from migrant workers abroad. Only Turkmenistan appears exempt from the international downturn, with growth remaining at a steady 12% in 2008 and 2009. The Caucasus suffered a setback when war broke out between Georgia and Russia over the separatist South Ossetia in August 2008. The consequences for Georgia were the most severe, but Armenia`s economy has also been affected, while oil exports from Azerbaijan were temporarily cut.

10.01.2009 15:05 U.S. jobless rate at 16-year high as payrolls plunge

The U.S. unemployment rate surged to the highest in nearly 16 years last month as a deepening year-long recession forced companies to axe more than half a million jobs, government data showed. The U.S. economy lost an astonishing 1.9 million jobs in the past four months alone, an acceleration in layoffs towards the end of a year that brought the biggest drop in employment in more than a half century. In all of 2008, 2.6 million people lost their jobs, the largest slump in employment since a 2.75 million drop in 1945. The December data pointed to a bleak start for 2009 and increased chances the economic downturn could become the longest since the 1930s. "This is a very dismal report. This paints a much worse picture in 2008 than we had thought," said Lindsey Piegza, market analyst at FTN Financial in New York. "This is one of the most significant downward quarters for jobs in post World War (Two) history." The Labour Department said the unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent last month, the highest since January 1993, from 6.8 percent in November. The rise was driven by massive layoffs in all major sectors except government, education and health. In all, employers cut nonfarm payrolls by 524,000 last month. While that was a bit less than analysts had predicted, job loss totals for October and November were revised upward and came in much higher than previously estimated.

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