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09.09.2008 22:19 Global economy faces its most difficult test in many years, says IMF`s Lipsky

The global economy faces its most difficult test in many years with growth slowing sharply as high commodity prices put pressure on inflation, a senior International Monetary Fund official said. IMF first deputy managing director John Lipsky said global growth was set to slow further in the second half of 2008, and continued financial sector strains were a major risk to the chances of recovery in 2009, on top of high oil prices. Commodity prices remained high and volatile, bringing risks of knock-on inflation effects, but recent sharp falls in oil prices should lessen short-term inflation pressures in the developed world, he told a conference. Central banks in advanced economies could afford to keep interest rates on hold. In regions with high real rates, they could look out for easing price pressures which would allow them to loosen policy later, he said. "Against the backdrop of protracted financial strains and dramatic surges in commodity prices, the global economy is confronted with its most difficult set of circumstances in many years," he said. "The good news is, we are only three to six months from the bottom, when the upturn begins." Speaking at the same conference, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the European Union needs to take urgent action to avoid a prolonged economic downturn and return to stronger growth. Lipsky said the IMF was still reviewing its forecasts, which are due to be updated in its World Economic Outlook next month. But the fund saw global growth slowing from 5 percent in 2007 to about 3 percent late in 2008, reaccelerating towards 4 percent in 2009. The IMF`s last forecasts in mid-July were for global growth of 4.1 percent in 2008 and 3.9 percent in 2009. A G20 source told Reuters last month that these would be downgraded to 3.9 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2009. Lipsky said the 2009 pickup would be driven by an unwinding of the effects of the past 50 percent increase in oil prices and a bottoming in the U.S. housing sector. Oil traded at a five-month low below $105 per barrel on Tuesday. In the United States, the IMF expected growth of about 1 percent in 2008 on a fourth-quarter-on-fourth-quarter basis, recovering gradually to about 1.5 percent in 2009, Lipsky said. This calculation was different from the annual growth rates forecast in its headline projections, he stressed. In mid-July, the IMF forecast U.S. growth of 0.3 percent in 2008 and 1.9 percent in 2009 on a Q4/Q4 basis, with full-year growth seen at 1.3 percent in 2008 and 0.7 percent in 2009. In the euro area, the IMF projected growth on a Q4/Q4 basis at about 0.75 percent in 2008 and about 1.5 percent in 2009, from 1.3 percent and 1.7 percent respectively in mid-July. Lipsky said that although the IMF expected commodity prices to remain high in real terms, slower growth and cheaper oil should help to contain inflation pressure in advanced economies. "Thus, policymakers can afford to keep rates on hold in the face of elevated headline inflation, while watching closely for signs of easing price pressure that would permit a more accommodative stance in economies with relatively high real interest rates," he said. The European Central Bank held rates at 4.25 percent last week but is expected to cut them in mid-2009 and the Bank of England`s next move is also likely to be a cut. The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to stay on hold for now, after cutting rates in the past year. Lipsky said that in emerging markets inflation pressures were growing while real interest rates remained low and some central banks may be "behind the curve" with their monetary policy. "Policies in these instances need to be tightened, lest central banks run the risk that hard-won policy credibility could be eroded. In some cases, allowing greater exchange rate flexibility would provide room for operating a more independent monetary policy." The IMF saw growth in emerging and developing economies of just over 6 percent in 2008 on a Q4/Q4 basis, broadly in line with the IMF`s mid-July outlook.

03.09.2008 22:38 Eurozone Q2 2008 GDP Revised Down On Yr To +1.4%

The euro-zone economy grew at the slowest year-on-year pace in almost five years in the second quarter of 2008, while it was also confirmed that the area`s quarterly performance was the weakest since records began. European statistics agency Eurostat Wednesday said year-on-year economic growth in the 15 countries that share the euro was just 1.4% compared with a 2.1% gain in the first quarter of the year. This was a downward revision from the original estimate of a 1.5% increase and is the lowest level of growth since a 1.2% gain in the third quarter of 2003. The 0.2% quarterly contraction reported in the preliminary release was confirmed. That was the first contraction since records began in the first quarter of 1995 and compared with an increase of 0.7% in the first quarter of the year. The downward revision to the annual growth rate was unexpected as economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast that both the quarterly and year-on-year measures would be unrevised from the preliminary reading. The weakness was led by household expenditure, which posted its weakest performance since records began, declining 0.2% on the quarter and rising just 0.4% on the year. In the first three months of 2008, household expenditure was flat on the quarter and grew 1.2% in year-on-year terms. Exports also declined on the quarter by 0.4% in April through June, a huge drop from the 1.8% gain reported in between January and March. On the year, exports grew at a weaker pace of 3.6% compared with a 5.4% gain in the first quarter, Eurostat said. Among the three major euro-zone economies, German growth contracted 0.5% on the quarter between April and June, while in France and Italy economic growth slipped 0.3% in the same period. Despite the weakness reported here the European Central Bank - which meets Thursday - is widely expected to keep key interest rates on hold at 4.25% until the end of year as inflation remains at a high level of 3.8%. Eurostat also reported that in the broader 27-country European Union, the economy contracted 0.1% on the quarter and grew 1.6% on the year.

28.08.2008 21:26 The US economy grew at a revised 3.3% annually in the second quarter of 2008

The US economy grew at a revised 3.3% annually in the second quarter of 2008, the Commerce Department said, much higher than its first estimate of 1.9%. The rebound was linked to strong US exports, helped by the weak dollar, while government tax rebates also boosted consumer spending. GDP grew at a rate of 0.9% in the first quarter, after a 0.2% contraction in the last three months of 2007. The data showed that exports grew at an annualised rate of 13.2%, higher than the government`s initial estimate of 9.2%. Imports fell at a rate of 7.6% as the US economic slowdown reduced demands for goods made overseas. The improved trade balance added 3.1 percentage points to second-quarter GDP, the biggest since 1980. The slowdown in the housing market was evident, as builders cut back and businesses reduced their spending. Consumer spending, boosted by the government`s $600 tax rebate payments, rose by 1.7%, slightly higher than the previous quarter`s 1.5%. Some observers said that the figures lent support to the argument that the US was not heading for a recession.

26.08.2008 22:22 Russia`s GDP grew 7.9 percent in January-July, 6.9 percent in July 2008

RIA Novosti cited Mr Elvira Nabiullina Economic Development Minister of Russia as saying that Russia`s GDP grew 7.9% in January to July 2008. He said that "The growth rates of gross domestic product remain rather high. It was 7.9% in the first seven months". The RF Federal Statistics Service announced recently the real cash income of Russia`s population soared 7.0% YoY in July. On average, the real income stepped up by 7.4% YoY from January through July. The real income increased 1.8% on month in July of 2008. Russia`s GDP growth amounted to 8.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008 compared to the same period a year earlier, and was severalfold greater than in developed countries, Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) reported today. During the same period, GDP rose 2.6 percent in Germany, 2.5 percent in the US, and 2.3 percent in the UK. At the same time, Russia`s consumption expenditures are nearly two times higher than GDP growth rate. In particular, Russia`s household consumption expenditures surged 14.1 percent in Q1 2008, while in some developed countries the figure was lower than GDP growth rate.

21.08.2008 22:05 Japan`s merchandise trade surplus tumbled 86.6 percent to 91.15 billion yen in July 2008

Japan`s merchandise trade surplus tumbled 86.6 percent to 91.15 billion yen ($830.5 million) in July from a year earlier, missing the consensus forecast, as surging prices of crude oil and other commodities lifted imports, the Ministry of Finance said. The surplus in July was much smaller than the 225.1 billion yen economists had expected. The finance ministry said exports rose 8.1 percent to 7.63 trillion yen while exports by volume rose 7.4 percent, the first rise in two months. In June, export by volume posted a 1.4 percent fall, the first fall in 16 months. By market, exports to the United States fell 4.1 percent, marking the 11th straight month of decline and the longest stretch since Japan`s exports to the world`s biggest economy fell for 14 straight months until February 2004. But the annual decline slowed from a 15.4 percent drop in June, which was the biggest since a 21.1 percent fall in November 2003. Exports to the European Union rebounded 4.1 percent in July following a 11.2 percent decline in June, which was the steepest since March 2002. In addition, exports to Asian countries rose 12.7 percent, much faster than a 1.5 percent increase in June. Meanwhile, imports increased 18.2 percent to 7.54 trillion yen in July, the tenth straight monthly rise. In July, crude oil imports surged 69.1 percent as the average price of crude oil jumped 89.2 percent to a record $131.50 a barrel. Imports of other commodities also increased due to rising prices, with imports of coal jumping 109.7 percent and liquefied natural gas up 59.3 percent.

19.08.2008 23:22 Euro area industrial production remained unchanged in June 2008 compared to May 2008

In June 2008 compared with May 2008, seasonally adjusted industrial production remained unchanged in the euro area (EA15) and grew by 0.1% in the EU27. In May production fell by 1.8% and 1.3% respectively. In June 2008 compared with June 2007, industrial production decreased by 0.5% in the euro area and by 0.3% in the EU27. These estimates are released by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. In June 2008 compared with May 2008, production of energy increased by 1.0% in the euro area and by 0.6% in the EU27. Non-durable consumer goods grew by 0.9% and 0.7% respectively. Durable consumer goods fell by 0.1% in the euro area and by 0.4% in the EU27. Intermediate goods declined by 0.2% in the euro area, but remained stable in the EU27. Capital goods decreased by 0.4% and 0.3% respectively. In June 2008 compared with June 2007, production of capital goods increased by 1.4% in both zones. Non-durable consumer goods fell by 0.6% in the euro area and by 0.7% in the EU27. Energy declined by 0.8% and 0.3% respectively. Intermediate goods decreased by 1.1% in the euro area and by 0.9% in the EU27. Durable consumer goods fell by 5.3% and 3.7% respectively.

14.08.2008 19:58 American investors believe the troubled US economy has fallen into a recession

The U.S. economy shrank during the closing months of 2007 for the first time in six years, the Commerce Department said, hurt by the steepest slump in housing since 1981. It was the first three-month period in which GDP shrank since during the last official recession when growth contracted by 1.4 percent in the third quarter of 2001. But it bounced back to record modest growth in 2008, avoiding back-to-back quarters of decline that would have met a popular definition of recession. The department sharply revised its estimate for fourth-quarter performance to show gross domestic product, or GDP, contracted 0.2 percent - rather than growing 0.6 percent as it previously reported. Growth resumed in the first quarter of 2008, however, with GDP rising at a 0.9 percent rate that accelerated to 1.9 percent in the second quarter as government stimulus payments began to flow. Meanwhile, a majority of American investors believe the troubled US economy has fallen into a recession, according to a survey released by asset management giant Schroders. A total 62 percent of the poll respondents said they believed that the world`s largest economy was contracting, Schroders Investment Management said. Despite this gloomy outlook, however, nearly all the investors polled, or 94 percent, said they still expect to reap a positive return on their market investments during the next 12 months.

23.07.2008 22:53 Russia`s GDP grew 8.0 percent in the first half of the year, 6.5 percent in June

Rosstat said that Russia`s GDP was 6.5% higher in June than in the same month a year earlier. GDP growth totaled 8% in the first half of the year compared to the same period of 2007, it said. Russia had GDP growth of 7.8% in the first half of 2007, including 9.3% in June. Excluding calendar and seasonal factors, GDP grew 0.2% in June 2008 compared to May, the lowest growth rates since the start of the year, Rosstat said. Industrial production growth rates unexpectedly plummeted in Russia in June 2008, falling to 0.9% in annual terms, the lowest level since November 2002. Many analysts have said the plunge in industrial production was the result of Russia`s successful showing at the Euro 2008 football championship, which could have resulted in Russians taking more days off work than usual in June. Investment in fixed capital in June was also at its lowest level since July 2006, totaling only 10.8%, which could be explained by the worsening in crediting terms due to the global financial crisis. In addition, slight growth has been seen in retail and construction over the last few months. The Economic Development Ministry raised its 2008 GDP growth forecast to 7.6% in April from 7.1%. A consensus forecast of analysts compiled by Interfax at the end of June predicted GDP growth of 7.6% in 2008. Russian GDP grew 8.1% in 2007. Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach told Interfax in early July that Russian GDP growth could top 7.8% in 2008 due to the current high oil prices. The disappointing results of June, however, will likely keep the ministry from raising its forecast. The Economic Development Ministry will submit an updated macroeconomic forecast for 2008-2011 to the government at the end of July.

19.07.2008 14:34 Industrial production down by 1.9% in euro area, down by 1.4% in EU27

In May 2008 compared with April 2008, seasonally adjusted industrial production1 fell by 1.9% in the euro area (EA15) and by 1.4% in the EU27. In April production grew by 1.0% and 0.3% respectively. In May 2008 compared with May 2007, industrial production decreased by 0.6% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU27. In May 2008 compared with April 2008, production of non-durable consumer goods fell by 1.2% in the euro area and by 1.1% in the EU27. Intermediate goods dropped by 1.4% and 1.0% respectively. Capital goods declined by 2.4% in the euro area and 2.1% in the EU27. Energy fell by 2.7% and 1.8% respectively. Durable consumer goods decreased by 3.3% in the euro area and by 2.3% in the EU27. Among the Member States for which data are available for May 2008, industrial production fell in eighteen and only rose in Ireland (+13.3%), Bulgaria (+3.3%) and Romania (+0.5%). The most significant falls were registered in Lithuania (-7.5%), the Netherlands (-6.0%), Portugal (-5.7%) and Latvia (-5.6%). In May 2008 compared with May 2007, production of capital goods increased by 2.2% in the euro area and by 1.9% in the EU27. Intermediate goods fell by 0.6% in both zones. Energy dropped by 1.2% in the euro area and by 1.1% in the EU27. Non-durable consumer goods declined by 3.2% and 2.8% respectively. Durable consumer goods decreased by 5.2% in the euro area and by 2.6% in the EU27. Among the Member States for which data are available for May 2008, industrial production rose in twelve and fell in nine. The highest increases were registered in Ireland (+9.2%), Bulgaria (+8.6%) and Denmark (+7.4%), while the most significant decreases were recorded in Latvia (-8.1%), Estonia (-6.7%) and Greece (-6.6%).

17.07.2008 20:31 China`s GDP grew 10.4 percent in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period last year

China`s economy is slowing but growth was still in double digits in the second quarter despite a credit tightening campaign, weakening exports and the devastating Sichuan earthquake. Gross domestic product grew 10.4 percent in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period last year, two official sources familiar with the data said. Economists polled by Reuters forecast 10.4 percent. But in light of the first-quarter growth rate of 10.6 percent, the figure provided by the sources suggests the outcome will be 10.1 percent or 10.2 percent. Here are some other first-half figures that official sources say will be reported, subject to late revisions: retail sales up 21.4 percent in value terms and 12.9 percent in volume terms; urban fixed-asset investment up 26.8 percent; CPI up 7.9 percent; food prices were up 20.4 percent, accounting for 6.6 percentage points of the overall rise in CPI. Consumer price inflation ebbed to 7.1 percent in the year to June from 7.7 percent in May, government sources familiar with the data have told Reuters. That would be well down from February`s peak of 8.7 percent. Economists expect the producer price index to have risen 8.4 percent in the year to June, up from May`s 8.2 percent.


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