Overseas Headlines – March 31, 2017


Consumer spending slows; inflation pushing higher
U.S. consumer spending barely rose in February amid delays in the payment of income tax refunds, but the biggest annual increase in inflation in nearly five years supported expectations of further interest rate hikes this year. The Commerce Department said on Friday consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, edged up 0.1 percent. That was the smallest gain since August and followed an unrevised 0.2 percent rise in January. Economists had expected a 0.2 percent increase. The government delayed the issuing of tax refunds this year as part of efforts to combat fraud. Spending last month was held back by a 0.1 percent dip in purchases of big-ticket items like automobiles. While unseasonably warm weather reduced households’ heating bills, it restricted spending last month.


Euro-Area Inflation Slows More Than Predicted on Oil, Food
Inflation in the euro area slowed for the first time in nearly a year this month, which may reinforce the view among some European Central Bank policy makers that it’s too soon to start unwinding unconventional stimulus. The 1.5 percent rate of price growth in March was down from 2 percent in February and weaker than economists had forecast. The core inflation rate also fell more than expected, to the lowest in nearly a year. The release of the numbers coincided with a speech by ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure, who said measures of underlying inflation “remain subdued” and the outlook is “highly conditional on our policy stance.” The slowdown — partly reflecting the timing of the Easter holiday — was predicted by the ECB. While the inflation rate picked up in the past year on the back of the ECB’s bond purchases, the rise has been chiefly due to volatile items such as energy and food.


China outstanding foreign debt falls to $1.42 trillion at end-2016
China’s outstanding foreign debt fell to $1.42 trillion at the end of 2016 from $1.43 trillion at the end of September, the foreign exchange regulator said on Friday. Short-term foreign debt stood at $870.9 billion at end-2016, down from $894.4 billion at the end of the third quarter, the regulator said. At the end of 2016, China’s outstanding foreign debt was 13 percent of GDP and its short-term foreign debt was 29 percent of FX reserves, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) said in a separate statement on its website. "China’s foreign debt risks fall within internationally recognized boundaries. Overall China’s foreign debt risks are manageable," SAFE said.

South America

Brazil jobless rate hits new high in Feb with 13.5 mln unemployed
Brazil’s jobless rate rose more than expected in February to a new record high, government data showed on Friday, with 13.5 million unemployed by the country’s worst recession ever. The unemployment rate rose to 13.2 percent in the three months through February, statistics agency IBGE said, above market expectations in a Reuters poll of economists for an increase to 13.1 percent. The unemployment rate is the highest in the current data series started in 2012, IBGE said, up from 12.6 percent in the three months through January. Unemployment rose despite a small improvement in job creation in February. A separate government report earlier this month showed 35,612 payroll jobs were open in February, in the first month of job creation since March 2015.