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20.05.2008 21:18 Japan`s economy grows at 3.3 per cent rate in January-March 2008

The Japanese economy grew at a faster-than-expected pace in the first quarter due to brisk exports and consumer spending, government data showed, but economists are unsure the momentum will continue amid a shaky global economic outlook. Some economists think the positive surprise may have been due to the leap year factor, with an extra day in February boosting sales of consumer companies, and the story is unlikely to see a repeat in the coming quarters. The Cabinet Office said gross domestic product grew 0.8 percent in real terms in the January-March quarter and at an annualized rate of 3.3 percent. The growth beat market expectations. Ten economists polled by Thomson Financial News were looking at 0.4 percent growth for the quarter and an annualized pace of 1.5 percent, on average. The better-than-expected numbers came after the Cabinet Office revised down GDP growth for the October-December quarter to 0.6 percent from 0.9 percent as reported earlier while the annualized rate was tweaked to 2.6 percent from 3.5 percent. Net exports - or the difference between exports and imports - pushed up GDP by 0.5 percentage point. Consumer spending, which makes up 55 percent of Japan`s GDP, also helped the world`s second-largest economy expand. Private consumption rose 0.8 percent during the quarter, the fastest growth since October-December 2006 when it grew 1.1 percent.

17.05.2008 14:47 US April industrial production falls 0.7 pct, capacity utilization 79.7 pct

US industrial production fell faster than expected in April, led by reduced manufacturing of autos, business equipment and construction supplies. The Federal Reserve reported today that industrial production in April fell 0.7 pct, a larger drop than the 0.3 pct decline that was expected by economists polled by Thomson`s IFR Markets. March`s industrial production level was downwardly revised to a 0.2 pct increase, from the 0.3 pct increase initially reported. The Fed also reported today that April`s plant capacity use rate fell to 79.7 pct, the lowest level in the current downturn. However, April`s plant capacity rate is still just a bit below the 81.0 pct rate seen a year earlier. Economists were expecting plant capacity use to fall to 80.1 pct. The lower factory output for April was prompted by declines in a wide range of market groups. Production of auto and auto parts fell 7.8 pct, consumer goods fell 0.8 pct, and business equipment production fell 1.1 pct. "As was the case in March, factory output in April was held down by a large drop in the index for motor vehicles and parts; strikes and strike-related parts shortages resulted in suspended production at many facilities", the Fed said in its report. The Fed noted that excluding autos and auto parts production, manufacturing production fell 0.4 pct in April after rising 0.3 pct in March. Segmented by industry group, durable manufacturing fell 1.4 pct, while nondurable manufacturing fared better, fallling 0.1 pct. Mining production fell 0.8 pct, natural gas utilities fell 0.3 pct, and electric utilities rose 0.4 pct.

15.05.2008 22:46 Eurozone economic growth rebounds to 0.7 per cent in first quarter

Economic growth in the 15 eurozone countries rebounded to 0.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year, boosted by strong German figures, the European Union`s Eurostat data agency said. The initial estimates were higher than economists` predictions and well above the 0.4 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth recorded in the last quarter of 2007. Analysts welcomed the figures. But they also warned that the good news was unlikely to last amid weaker business confidence and a slowdown in orders as the strong euro and soaring oil prices, coupled with the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, hit consumers and businesses.

13.05.2008 21:38 China`s inflation rises to almost 12-year high

China`s inflation almost climbed to a 12-year high in April, swamping official efforts to cool surging living costs that could provoke unrest ahead of the Beijing Olympics. The government, which took further steps Monday to tame the inflation, faces the possibility of more sharp price hikes, some analysts warned. "Underlying inflationary pressures remain undiminished", Goldman Sachs economists Yu Song and Hong Liang said in a report. The government ordered banks to increase their reserves for a fourth time this year in a move meant to contain inflation by curbing lending, but it gave no indication whether it would boost interest rates. April`s consumer prices rose by 8.5 percent over the same month last year, the National Bureau of Statistics reported. That was a rebound from March`s 8.3 percent rate and below February`s 8.7 percent — the highest in 12 years. Premier Wen Jiabao has said taming inflation is Beijing`s priority. The government said in March it hoped to hold price rises to 4.8 percent this year — a target that looks increasingly unlikely. April inflation was driven by a 22.1 percent jump in food prices, including 68.3 percent for pork over the same month last year, 46.6 percent for cooking oil and 13.6 percent for vegetables.

07.05.2008 23:12 Russia`s trade surplus grew 1.6 times to $53.6bn in the first quarter

Russia`s trade surplus grew 1.6 times to $53.6bn in the first quarter of 2008 compared to the same period a year earlier, the Federal Customs Service of Russia said. Earlier, the Russian Economy Ministry said trade turnover increased 50.3 percent to $168.8bn in the first quarter. Russia`s exports jumped 50 percent to $108.1bn. The sharp increase can be attributed to faster-than-expected price growth for key products exported from Russia. Meanwhile, Russia`s imports grew 40.9 percent to $60.7bn. Countries outside the CIS accounted for 86.7 percent of Russia`s imports against 84.6 percent a year earlier, while the CIS`s share decreased from 15.4 percent to 13.3 percent accordingly. Two of Russia`s top three trade partners are European: Germany with a turnover of USD 31.9 billion and the Netherlands with 28.3 billion. China is the third. European countries account for 75 percent of direct investment in Russia. Britain ranks first. During the first part of 2007 it invested more than USD 15 billion.

06.05.2008 00:15 The CPI stood at 101.4 percent in Russia in April, reaching 106.3 percent for the year to date

The consumer price index stood (CPI) at 101.4 percent in Russia in April, reaching 106.3 percent for the year to date, the Russian State Statistics Service said in a statement. In 2007, the CPI amounted to 100.6 percent in April and 104 percent from the start of the year. Prices rose more than 2 percent in nine Russian regions. As during the previous month, prices and tariffs of consumer goods and services overall grew the most in the Chechen Republic (3.6 percent), where foodstuffs increased in value by 4.2 percent. The CPI stood at 101.1 percent in Moscow (105.8 percent from the beginning of the year) and 102.4 percent in St. Petersburg (106.6 percent from the start of the year).

30.04.2008 20:00 US GDP grew 0.6 percent y/y in the first quarter

The US economy slowed to a crawl in the first three months of this year, with gross domestic product growing just 0.6% for the second quarter in a row, according to advance data released today by the Commerce Department. The anemic growth was consistent with expectations by analysts who have been predicting an economic slowdown or shallow recession for much of this year. A main contributor to the slow growth was a drop-off in personal consumption, which accounts for about three-quarters of the nation`s economic demand. Personal consumption grew just 1.0% in the first quarter compared with 2.3% growth in the fourth quarter of 2007. The decline was led by a 6.1% decrease in purchases of durable goods and a 1.3% decrease in nondurable goods. The only area of increase was the consumption of services, which rose 3.4% in the first quarter of this year, compared with a 2.8% increase in the last three months of last year. The housing sector continued to contract at a blistering rate - the equivalent of a 26.7% decline in residential investment over the last year, the department said. The Commerce Department noted that the advance report is based on incomplete data and the results are likely to be revised in coming months.

29.04.2008 22:05 The European Commission cuts growth forecast and ups inflation forecast

The European Commission has said that financial market turmoil, a slowing US economy and soaring commodity prices will curb growth in the region more than expected. In its spring economic forecast, the Commission says euro zone growth will slow to 1.7% this year and 1.5% next year, that is down from 2.8% and 2.6% in the last two years. European economic and monetary affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia said: "This shows some impact coming from the financial turmoil and the US slowdown indeed, but from the second quarter of the year onwards, we start again growth in the EU and the euro area and this allows us a positive profile regarding growth at the end of this year and in particular throughout 2009". The Commission said a surge in food and oil prices is dampening consumer demand and therefore growth. It has raised its price growth forecast. Inflation hit a record high of 3.6% year-on-year in March and the Commission now expects it to be 3.2% in the whole of 2008 from 2.1% last year and to ease to 2.2% in 2009. The European Central Bank is predicting inflation at 2.9% this year and 2.1% in 2009. ECB Chairman Jean-Claude Trichet and his policymakers have said that the best way they can keep inflation contained is by leaving interest rates unchanged for now.

26.04.2008 14:35 Russia Central Bank official sees FY inflation below 10 percent

Russia Central Bank first deputy chairman Alexei Ulyukayev said the nation`s inflation will be just under 10 percent in 2008, down from last year`s 11.9 percent level, Interfax reported. "I am firmly convinced that we have every chance to significantly lower inflation this year compared to last year and put it at single digits just below 10 percent", Ulyukayev said. The official also stated that the year-on-year inflation was still too high, at 14 percent. Inflation is driven not only by global factors, but also by domestic ones, including the policies of the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry, as well as natural monopolies` tariff policies, Ulyukayev stated. Meanwhile, he pointed out that it was possible to keep the inflation rate within the target of 10 percent in 2008, although it was a very difficult task. Russia`s Economic Development and Trade Ministry earlier this month said full year inflation would range from 9 percent to 10 percent, up from an earlier 8 percent to 9.5 percent forecast range.

25.04.2008 22:38 German government expects economy to grow 1.7% in 2008 and 1.2% in 2009

The German government expects the country`s economy to grow 1.2 percent during 2009, economy minister Michael Glos said. The four leading German research institutes expect the economy to grow 1.4 percent next year. Glos confirmed the government expects the economy to grow 1.7 percent this year. In 2007, GDP growth was at 2.5 percent. He said the government expects the number of jobless in 2008 and 2009 to reach 3.2 million on average. The German government expects the country`s 2008 inflation rate to come in around 2.6 percent and to drop to 1.8 percent in 2009, sources close to the government told German news agency dpa. The inflation rate figures match the most recent estimates by four leading German research institutes, which revised their estimates upwards in mid April.


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