Overseas Headlines – March 30, 2017


U.S. Fourth-Quarter Growth Revised Upward to 2.1% on Consumption

The U.S. economy grew in the fourth quarter at a faster pace than previously reported on higher consumer spending, Commerce Department data showed Thursday in Washington.

Key Points
· Gross domestic product rose at a 2.1 annualized pace (forecast was for 2 percent), revised from 1.9 percent
· Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, rose at a 3.5 percent rate, revised from 3 percent; added 2.4 percentage points to growth, revised from 2.05 points
· Corporate profits in the U.S. jumped 9.3 percent from a year earlier, the most since 2012, and rose 0.5 percent from the previous three months, in the first estimate for the fourth quarter
· Trade subtracted 1.82 percentage points from growth, the most since 2004, compared with the prior estimate of a 1.7-point drag, on weaker exports and higher imports

Jobless Claims in U.S. Declined Less Than Forecast Last Week
Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits declined last week by less than forecast, while remaining at levels consistent with a solid labor market, a Labor Department report showed Thursday.

Key Points
· Jobless claims decreased by 3,000 to 258,000 (forecast was 247,000) in the week ended March 25
· The prior week’s reading was unrevised at 261,000
· The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits increased by 65,000 to 2.05 million in the week ended March 18 (data reported with one-week lag)


German inflation weaker than expected in March, state data suggest
German consumer inflation probably slowed more than expected in March due to cheaper energy and food prices, falling back below the European Central Bank’s target of just under 2 percent, regional data suggested on Thursday. The surprisingly weak figures from several German states hinted that price pressures in Europe’s biggest economy still remain relatively modest despite its continued upswing, booming labour market and the ECB’s loose monetary policy. The German data follows Spanish price figures that also showed consumer inflation eased sharply in March as fuel and power prices fell, feeding into the debate about the euro zone’s monetary policy outlook. In Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, annual inflation slowed to 1.7 percent from 2.3 percent in February. It also fell back to 1.7 percent in Hesse and Bavaria. In the eastern state of Brandenburg, it dropped to 1.4 percent while it stood at 1.8 percent in Saxony. A Reuters poll conducted before the release of the regional data suggested overall consumer price inflation fell to 1.9 percent in March from 2.2 percent in February, which was the highest rate since August 2012.


China pledges greater yuan flexibility as capital outflows ease
China’s foreign exchange regulator said on Thursday that pressure from capital outflows eased somewhat in 2016 and there will be greater flexibility in the yuan’s exchange rate in 2017. Authorities have taken a raft of steps in recent months to curb capital flight to support the yuan, while trying to bring in more foreign investment. "With the steady progress of reforms of renminbi (yuan) exchange rate mechanism, the flexibility of renminbi exchange rate will be further enhanced," the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) said in a statement. The pressure on China’s cross-border capital outflows abated somewhat in 2016, it said. The statement did not give any specifics. Increased yuan flexibility will help promote two-way cross-border capital flows, the regulator said. China’s current account surplus is likely to be kept "within a reasonable range" this year, as the global economy stabilizes despite risks from trade frictions, it said.