Overseas Headlines- March 07, 2017


Trade Deficit in U.S. Widens to Largest in Almost Five Years
The U.S. chalked up its largest trade deficit since March 2012 as a jump in merchandise imports in January exceeded a smaller gain in shipments overseas. The gap in goods and services trade increased by 9.6 percent to $48.5 billion, matching the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey, Commerce Department figures showed Tuesday. The deterioration in January from the previous month reflected a 2.3 percent gain in imports, the most since March 2015, and a 0.6 percent pickup in exports. Rising imports of consumer goods, capital equipment and motor vehicles reflect steady demand from American households and companies, with help from a stronger dollar. The wider deficit indicates trade, which subtracted 1.7 percent from fourth-quarter growth, will weigh on the economy in early 2017. Bloomberg survey estimates ranged from a trade deficit of $43 billion to $49.6 billion. The Commerce Department left the shortfall for December at the initially reported $44.3 billion.


Signs of slowdown grow as Britain gears up to trigger EU divorce
British consumers are feeling the strain of rising prices caused by last year’s Brexit vote, suggesting the economy is heading for a slowdown just as London gears up for divorce talks with the European Union, surveys and data showed on Tuesday. After helping the economy withstand the immediate Brexit shock last year, consumers are reining in spending on non-essentials as prices for day-to-day shopping rise, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) industry group and Barclaycard said. Separate data from market research firm Kantar World panel showed the inflation rate for groceries doubling in the space of a month as prices for food staples including butter, tea and fish all rose. Britain’s economy unexpectedly lost no pace last year after the surprise referendum vote in June to leave the EU. But Tuesday’s signals add to evidence that growth is now starting to wilt, just as Chancellor Philip Hammond prepares to unveil an annual budget plan on Wednesday. He has signalled he will not spend heavily now but will keep money in reserve in case the economy needs help to get through a slowdown as Britain withdraws from Europe’s single market — an unsettling prospect for many employers and investors.


China to strictly control local gov’t debt quotas – finance minister
China will strictly control local government debt quotas and step up checks on illegal debt guarantees, finance minister Xiao Jie said on Tuesday, Government debt risks are generally under control, Xiao said at a news conference during the annual meeting of parliament. The government will continue to improve the financing environment and push forward the standardisation of public-private partnership projects, Xiao said


Brazil Economic Rout Deepens as Investment Shows No Rebound
Brazil’s economic rout deepened in the fourth quarter as investors and consumers remain skeptical of the government’s austerity measures that marked a disastrous year of corruption and recession. Gross domestic product contracted 0.9 percent in the final three months of 2016, its biggest decline in a year, after a revised 0.7 percent drop the previous quarter, the national statistics institute said Tuesday. That was worse than the median estimate for a 0.5 percent decline from 46 economists Bloomberg surveyed, and lower than all but four of their estimates. For the full year Brazil contracted 3.6 percent. Amid the biggest bribery scandal in the nation’s history, Brazil’s economic and political crisis has decimated both investment and consumption while unemployment has now reached record levels. An economic recovery  may remain elusive even as President Michel Temer wins investor praise for efforts to shore up Brazil’s finances, and plunging inflation allows the central bank to lower borrowing costs.