German firms optimistic for 2018, worker shortage main brake
More than half of Germany’s industry associations have shrugged off worries about U.S. protectionist policies and Brexit, and are more positive about their situation than they were a year ago, a survey showed on Wednesday. The main factor holding firms back in Europe’s biggest economy is a shortage of skilled labor, the IW economic institute in Cologne said. Its poll showed that 26 of 48 industry associations were more upbeat than they were at the end of 2016 and more than two- thirds expected firms in their sector to produce more next year than this. “Despite the protectionist policies of U.S. President Donald Trump and prospect of Brexit, investment in Germany rose this year and will strengthen further in 2018,” said IW in a statement. Only two sectors were pessimistic – the food industry, which is worried about tougher competition and higher costs, and sections of the cooperative banking sector which are suffering from low interest rates and margins. The IW said 24 of the 47 industry associations which gave investment estimates, expect higher spending levels from their member companies. The main factor holding back firms is a shortage of skilled labor, a long-standing concern in Germany.
China’s Nov industrial profits up 14.9 pct y/y, slowest growth since April
Profits earned by China’s industrial firms in November rose 14.9 percent from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said on Wednesday, the weakest earnings growth since April and well below a 25.1 percent gain in October. Profits rose to 785.8 billion yuan in November, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on its website. In the first eleven months, industrial profits rose 21.9 percent from a year earlier, versus the 23.3 percent increase in January-October period, according to the statistics bureau. Chinese industrial firms’ liabilities increased 6.3 percent from a year earlier as of end-November, compared with a 6.7 percent rise from the end of October. The data covers large companies with annual revenue of more than 20 million yuan from their main operations.
Dollar falls as oil price gain boosts commodity currencies
The U.S. dollar fell against a basket of currencies and slid against the euro on Wednesday in thin holiday trading, while a rally in commodity prices helped push the Canadian and Australian currencies to their highest levels in recent weeks. Traders said there was little news to support the euro’s rise, but some investors have positioned for a possible strengthening into the new year. In 2017 the euro had its best year against the greenback since 2003. Sterling enjoyed a bounce amid the broad dollar decline, with the pound up 0.3 percent at $1.341 at 1235 GMT. It had traded as high as $1.3423 earlier on Wednesday, its highest since Dec. 15. Oil prices surged to two and a half-year highs on Tuesday, boosted by news of an explosion on a Libyan crude pipeline as well as voluntary OPEC-led supply cuts. Copper prices on Wednesday rocketed to their highest in three and a half years. That helped support demand for the currencies of commodity exporting countries, with the Canadian dollar touching C$1.262, close to its highest level since October.