Archive forApril, 2013

Letta gotta pick a pocket or two

It appears that a thaw in Eurozone austerity policies may emanate from the new Italian government under Prime Minister Enrico Letta this week as he takes his stimulus initiative road show to Berlin, Brussels and Paris, reflecting conditions laid down by the newly-formed coalition between the Letta’s dominant Democratic Party and the People of Liberty Party represented by Angelino Alfano on behalf of Signore Berlusconi. Proposing a new variation on the three-card trick, Mr Letta will be discussing plans which remove an imminent housing tax and a rise in value added tax agreed by the previous government. A potential difficulty with this approach is that, while the agreement to keep faith with Eurozone fiscal guidelines is to be honoured according to the new government, it is not clear how the implied shortfall of around €6 billion of revenue will be met.

Japan’s manufacturing PMI rises; household spending surges

Japan’s Markit/JMMA Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a seasonally adjusted 51.1 in April from 50.4 in March, its fastest rate since March 2012. Meanwhile, industrial output grew a slower-than-expected 0.2% m-o-m in March. Household spending jumped 5.2% y-o-y in March, its largest gain since February 2004, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said today.

China’s industrial profits soar in Q1 2013

China’s industrial profits expanded 12.1% y-o-y to ¥1.17trln ($189.8bn) in Q1 2013, the National Bureau of Statistics data indicated on Saturday. Profits rose 5.3% to ¥464.9bn in March compared to that in the same month last year.

Four times for Silvio

Against the odds, it looks as if the Houdini of Italian politics is escaping from potential exile yet again and certain members of the European Union politerati must be choking on their 1992 Chateau Angelus Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Silvio ‘imagine you’re on a camping weekend instead of forced out of your home by an earthquake’ Berlusconi is working his way back into the epicentre of Italian government following his support for the reappointment as President of Giorgio Napolitano earlier this week.

German Economy Ministry raises outlook

Germany’s economy would grow 0.5% in 2013, marginally up from the earlier estimate of 0.4%, the Economy Minister Philipp Roesler announced yesterday. Also, GDP would expand 1.6% in 2014. The ministry estimates inflation to ease modestly to 1.7% this year from 2% in 2012. The labour market would remain robust, supporting wage and income growth, with jobless rate forecast to drop to 6.6% next year.

Markets in search of a ‘put’

This morning’s release by the Office for National Statistics of the U.K.’s GDP data for Q1 2013 has revealed growth of 0.3% against survey estimates of around 0.1% growth after a decline of 0.3% in the previous quarter. The decline in Q4 2012, taken together with a negative number for this latest quarter, had threatened to show the U.K. economy in a ‘triple-dip’ recession – the third recession since the start of the current Financial Crisis 2008. Although the figure is subject to subsequent revision, plus 0.3% provides a slightly larger margin of error than 0.1% would have done. (Not that we’re clutching at straws, you understand!). Year-on-year, the rate of growth has emerged at 0.6% compared with expectations of 0.4%.

UK retail sales decline in April; BoE extends FLS scheme

The UK retail sales balance fell to -1 in April from 0 in March, down for the first time in eight months, the Confederation of British Industry data showed yesterday. The expected sales balance for May also dropped to -6, its lowest reading since February 2012. The BoE announced an extension of the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) for one year, taking it until the end of January 2015, with incentives to boost credit supply to small and medium-sized businesses.

Your starter for ten

Bombs in the White House or an imminent cut in interest rates by the European Central Bank – which is the more plausible scenario ? Analyse and discuss. Restrict your answer to one side of A4 paper.

UK’s budget deficit narrows marginally

In the fiscal year ended March 2013, the UK budget deficit shrank slightly to £120.6bn from £120.9bn the previous year, the Office for National Statistics announced yesterday. UK government revenue fell 5.7% y-o-y, while expenditure dropped 4.7%. The budget shortfall, excluding temporary support for banks, narrowed to £15.1bn in March from £16.7bn in the same period last year.

Margins critical

‘All over the shop’ is an expression that seems to sum up yesterday’s performance of the S&P 500 Index, with the implied subtext that, perhaps, the market is not quite sure which way to jump. A firmer opening tone quickly gave way to disappointment with the results from the industrial machinery group, Caterpillar, as it missed forecasts.

China’s manufacturing growth slows in April

China’s preliminary reading of the HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) declined to 50.5 in April from 51.6 in March. The sub-index of new export orders fell to 48.6 from 50.5 in March, largely due to weaker demand from the US and the Eurozone.

George and the triple-dip dragon

After last week’s wobble in sentiment that left ‘western’ markets between 1.5% (FTSE 100) and 3.7% (Xetra Dax) lower, the new week has opened with a firmer tone alongside some recovery in the price for Gold ($ 1,420 per troy ounce) while the declines in prices for Copper ($6,990 per metric ton) and Oil ($87.8 per barrel) appear to have slowed for now. The rate of economic growth in China was the big question last week and this week the focus shifts to the United Kingdom and the United States.

Fitch downgrades UK’s credit rating

Fitch Ratings cut UK’s long-term foreign and local currency ratings to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’ with a stable outlook. The downgrade reflects a weaker economic and fiscal outlook due to higher-than-projected budget deficits and government debt. Separately, the Sunday Telegraph reported that the BoE plans to extend the £80bn Funding for Lending (FLS) scheme by a year to January 2015. The scheme would also be expanded to include specialised institutions like asset-based lenders and leasing firms to further ease the credit crunch.

UK – Crisis economy

The comments emerged late for some, if any, editions of the Financial Times this morning but they were picked up by the London free paper, CityAM, with the headline ‘Carney: UK is a Crisis Economy’ – not the sort of reminder most City workers need as they wind down into the end of a tricky week for markets in general. According to this and some other reports, he sees the United Kingdom as part of a pack of crisis economies which includes the Eurozone and Japan.

China’s leading economic index unchanged in March

China’s leading economic indicator (LEI) remained unchanged in March at 258.3 after growing 1.2% in February and 1.7% in January, the Conference Board announced today. Weak real estate activity due to the government’s tightening measures on home purchases was cited as the main reason. The coincident economic index, a gauge of current economic activity, fell 0.2% in March following a 2.9% rise in February.

Heartbreak ridge for equities

Eliciting themes from the markets to comment on has proved more challenging than usual this morning. Even a casual observer would probably recognise that there are many cross-currents at play which make identifying a future direction for markets difficult. A sharp sell-off in any investment vehicle usually merits closer examination for specific reasons and any broader implications. The recent drop in the price of Gold which, for some of its disciples has almost mythic status, can be rationalised in many ways.

China’s Jan-March FDI rises; home prices pick up

China’s foreign direct investment inflows increased 1.44% y-o-y to US$29.9bn in the first three months of 2013, snapping the longest period of annual decline, the Commerce Ministry said today. In March alone, China drew US$12.4bn in FDI, up 5.65% y-o-y. Separately, the country’s new home prices rose 3.6% y-o-y in March after increasing 2.1% y-o-y in February, calculations based on the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data indicated.

Lies, damned lies and economic research

When markets are especially in short term mode as they have been for many months, reacting to the latest media reports without apparently any regard for the longer view, it is reassuring if influential economists can be relied on for evidence of consistent statistical method even if their conclusion diverge (which, inevitably, they do). There is news this morning of a challenge on the methods of Rogoff and Reinhart of Harvard University by a research group at the University of Massachusetts concerning work on the impact of high public debt as a proportion of an economy’s output on economic growth. This serves to muddy the waters for government policies such a rapid introduction of austerity measures as in the United Kingdom. Undoubtedly, this is a debate to be followed although any shift in the intellectual basis for current policies seem unlikely to come any time soon.

IMF trims global growth forecast, warns the UK and France

The IMF lowered its global growth estimate for 2013 to 3.3% from 3.5% in January, after a 3.2% growth in 2012. It also trimmed its forecast for 2014 to 4% from 4.1%. The IMF downgraded Britain’s growth outlook more sharply than that for any other major economy to a mere 0.7% in 2013 and 1.5% in 2014, down 0.3% for each year. It urged the UK to adopt more near-term flexibility in the fiscal adjustment path with a looser budget policy. The IMF added France’s economy could shrink 0.1% in 2013 versus a growth forecast of 0.3% in January, with serious doubts on Paris meeting its deficit target of below 3% of GDP. Also, France could grow 0.9% in 2014. The Fund expects China’s economy to grow at around 8% in 2013 and 8.2% in 2014.

A change of gear

The S&P 500 Index has been bouncing along in relatively overbought territory since late-January but over the intervening period had still put on around 6% in value by the time it hit the recent new high of 1,593 last week. Last night’s 2.3% index drop not only pared that gain to 3% but created a break down through the uptrend line in place since the turn of the year. Consequently, we are seeing at the very least a change in pace of upward momentum and possibly the start of a more significant adjustment lower. Sentiment seems to have soured exceptionally quickly. Certainly, yesterday’s news was not the best for the markets to absorb – quite apart from the tragic events in Boston – disappointment with signs of below-estimate economic growth out of China and a sharp sell-off in the price of gold.

Greece set to receive more bailout aid

Greece’s international lenders gave the country a green signal on its economic health, stating Athens was on track to contain its debt and drag itself out of recession next year. Greece’s next disbursement of bailout aid of at least €2.8bn is set to be approved soon. Athens aims to achieve a primary budget surplus (before debt payments) in 2013, fulfilling its primary condition to secure further debt cuts from its creditors one year ahead than planned.

We needed a Thatcher to repair the roof in 1979

Apart from the disappointment that China only grew by 7.7% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2013 that has prompted declines in Asian and European equity markets this morning, what catches the eye are the pronounced falls since last Thursday in the prices for Gold and Silver. Over the past five days, Gold has dropped 7% to $1,450 per troy ounce while Silver has fallen by just over 11% to $24.54 p.t.o.. Since recent peaks in early-October 2012, both metals have declined with Gold down 19% and Silver 21% lower. Since their all-time peaks, Gold ($1,900 p.t.o. 5th September 2011) and Silver ($48.4 p.t.o. 28th April 2011), their respective declines to date are 24% (Gold) and 50% (Silver).

China’s Q1 2013 economic growth eases

GDP growth in China moderated to 7.7% in Q1 2013 from 7.9% Q4 2012, missing the consensus forecast of 8%, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed today. Also, industrial output grew 8.9% y-o-y in March, well below expectations of a 10% rise, while fixed asset investment rose 20.9% y-o-y in the first quarter, below the 21.3% projected by economists. Meanwhile, the World Bank lowered its estimate of Chinese GDP growth by 0.1% to 8.3% for 2013.

IMF trims US and global economic growth outlook

The US GDP would expand 1.7% in 2013 versus the previous estimate of 2% growth, according to IMF’s draft report on World Economic Outlook. Fiscal tightening measures in the US that began last month are expected to constrain consumption temporarily. The report said the global economy would grow 3.4% in 2013, down from 3.5% forecasted in January. The Eurozone would contract 0.2%, unchanged from January’s reading, with key uncertainty arising from Italy’s election deadlock. In Japan, growth rate is forecast at 1.5% in 2013, an upward revision from IMF’s 1.2% expansion predicted earlier.

Japan’s machinery orders pick up; Chinese banks boost credit

Japan’s core machinery orders, a key gauge for capital spending, rose 7.5% m-o-m in February, the fastest rate since mid-2011, as per data from the Cabinet Office. Separately, Chinese banks disbursed ¥1.06trln (US$171.2bn) of new local currency loans in March, the People’s Bank of China said. The broad M2 money supply grew 15.7% y-o-y in March vis-a-vis market expectations of 14.6%.

It’s all happening in the Orient

After the phase of uncertainty in many equity markets since mid-March (with the pronounced exception of Tokyo) a more positive tone is emerging this morning following the release of trade data in China for March. Gains in Europe are of the order of 1.5% after year-on-year growth in Chinese imports at 14.1% exceeded expectations of 6.0% and Italy successfully sold €11 billion worth of Treasury Bills at auction at rates below previous levels. There is a sense in markets that the strong boost to liquidity by Japan is helping to stimulate demand for assets elsewhere.

China reports mild trade deficit in March

China recorded an unexpected trade deficit of US$884m in March, contrary to forecasts of a US$15.4bn surplus, the Customs Administration data showed today. In February, the country posted a surplus of US$15.3bn. Imports surged 14.1% y-o-y during the month, while export grew 10% y-o-y.

China’s consumer inflation eases in March

China’s annual consumer inflation eased to 2.1% in March from a 3.2% reading in February, the National Bureau of Statistics stated today. Economists had forecast inflation to ease to 2.5%. Food costs had the biggest impact, increasing 2.7% y-o-y, less than half of February’s 6% rise. Meanwhile, producer prices fell 1.9% in March at a quicker rate than February’s annual decline of 1.6%.

Spending Boom

While ‘Whatever it takes’ in Japanese is a phrase that may be on the tip of many people’s tongues it is surely forward in the mind of Haruhiko Kuroda, the new governor of the Bank of Japan, just as when European Central Bank President uttered the sentiment in his July 2012 speech as he attempted to establish a beachhead for Euro stability and ultimate recovery. The prospect of supertanker-sized tranches of Yen injections into the monetary system have taken the currency down by more than 20% since mid-September 2012 from the Yen 77 level to a four-year low at around Yen 99 now while the Nikkei 225 Index has gained by 55% since mid-October 2012 on the prospect of rallying exports.

Japan’s current account balance swings to a surplus

Japan’s current account balance showed a surplus of ¥637.4bn (US$6.56bn) in February, the first surplus in four months, and significantly exceeding the ¥466.3bn forecasted by Reuters economists, the Ministry of Finance data showed today. The surplus was still 47% lower from a year earlier, with the trade balance remaining in deficit.