Overseas Headlines – March 15, 2017


U.S. Retail Sales in February Post Smallest Gain in Six Months
U.S. retail sales in February posted the smallest gain in six months, indicating a tempering of the consumer spending that’s been carrying the economy. Purchases rose 0.1 percent, matching the Bloomberg survey median estimate, after a 0.6 percent increase in the prior month that was stronger than previously reported, Commerce Department figures showed Wednesday. Just four of the 13 major retail categories saw gains in February sales. Receipts dropped at electronics and appliances stores, apparel outlets and car dealers, a sign of more moderate consumption in the first quarter. While purchases may have been restrained by a temporary slowdown in individual tax refunds, robust confidence, healthy job growth and steady incomes may provide some fuel for a recovery in spending.


U.K. Jobless Rate Matches Lowest Since 1975 as Pay Slows
The U.K. jobless rate matched its lowest since 1975 in the three months through January but Britons are seeing their wages go nowhere. Unemployment unexpectedly declined to 4.7 percent, matching the rate it last reached in 2005, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. The number of people in work rose by 92,000 to 31.9 million, the biggest increase since last summer. The U.K. economy has defied predictions of doom since the Brexit vote, expanding at a robust 0.7 percent at the end of 2016, but the latest data show cost pressures in the labour market remain subdued.


China fiscal spending, revenue surge in January-February
China’s fiscal spending surged 17.4 percent in the first two months of 2017 from the same period of last year, the finance ministry said on Wednesday, quickening from a 12 percent gain seen in the same period a year ago. Central government spending rose 8.1 percent from a year earlier, while spending by local governments jumped by 19.1 percent, the ministry said in a statement on its website. China relied heavily on infrastructure spending to stabilize growth last year as private companies pulled back on investment. Beijing cut its growth target to around 6.5 percent this year, as policymakers turned to tackling a build-up in debt and containing financial risks. Spending on public housing rose the fastest with a 34.5 percent gain from a year ago, while social welfare and employment expenses – the biggest category by value – rose 25.9 percent, it said.