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Eurozone unemployment at record low; Norway to buy foreign cash — Macro Snapshot
Euro zone unemployment fell to a record low in February as the economy continued to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, even as energy prices rose sharply in the build-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The EU’s statistics office, Eurostat, said unemployment in the 19 countries sharing the euro fell to 6.8 percent of the workforce in February from a revised 6.9 percent in January.
The February rate is the lowest since records started in 1998, just before the official launch of the euro in January 1999. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 6.7 percent.
Eurostat said 11.155 million people were without a job in the euro zone in February, down from 11.336 million a month earlier.
Norway central bank to buy currency
Norway’s central bank said on Thursday it would buy foreign currency for its sovereign wealth fund in April for the first time in almost nine years, amid a surge in the country’s oil and gas revenues, weakening the crown currency.
Norges Bank plans to exchange 2 billion crowns ($231.9 million) per day into foreign currency, which will in turn be invested abroad by the wealth fund, already the world’s largest with assets of $1.3 trillion.
Declining goods purchases curb US consumer spending
US consumer spending barely rose in February as an increase in outlays on services was offset by declining purchases of motor vehicles and other goods while price pressures mounted, with annual inflation surging by the most since the early 1980s.
The report from the Commerce Department on Thursday showed spending in January was much stronger than initially estimated.
That put consumer spending on track for solid growth this quarter, which would keep the economy expanding, despite the rising headwinds from inflation that is driven by shortages.
“Despite sagging confidence due to the war (in Ukraine) and inflation, American consumers are hanging tough, undergirded by strong employment growth and built-up savings,” said Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, rose 0.2 percent last month. Data for January was revised higher to show outlays rebounding 2.7 percent instead of 2.1 percent as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending increasing 0.5 percent.
A significant decline in COVID-19 infections boosted demand for services like dining out, hotel stays, recreation, air travel and health care. Services increased 0.9 percent after rising 0.7 percent in January. But spending on goods dropped 1.0 percent after surging 6.5 in the prior month. The decline in goods purchases signals the rotation of spending back to services.
Spain consumer goods sales rise on worries over supply
Sales of consumer goods rose 13 percent in Spain in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as supply concerns, exacerbated by a partial transport strike, prompted shoppers to stock up on staples, market research firm Kantar said on Thursday.
Kantar measured the sales between March 6 and 20, compared to the same period a year ago, and their total increase far outpaced a 5 percent rise in Spanish mass consumer products prices in the same two weeks, meaning sales volumes were growing.
“Spain’s shoppers are starting to change their habits and it is directly related to the concern they are showing about the current scenario,” said Kantar, adding that 90 percent of consumers surveyed were worried about the impact of the conflict that began on Feb. 24.
Spain’s January public deficit, minus town halls, narrows
Spain’s public deficit — which includes the central government, social security system and regions, but not town halls — narrowed in the first month of 2022, the Budget Ministry said on Thursday.
The deficit during January narrowed to the equivalent of 0.47 percent of gross domestic product, the ministry said, down from 0.73 percent of gross domestic product in the same period a year ago.
The deficit was equivalent to 4.62 percent of GDP in the first eleven months of 2021.
Brazil’s jobless rate hits six-year low
Brazil’s jobless rate stood at 11.2 percent in the three months through February, statistics agency IBGE said on Thursday, the lowest level for the period in six years, amid a drop in the number of people seeking employment.
The rate showed no change from the three months through January, and was down four-tenths of a percentage point from the September 2021 to November 2021 period.
A Reuters poll of economists had projected that the unemployment rate would be 11.4 percent in the three months through the end of February.
The Economy Ministry has emphasized that job creation will underpin economic growth this year. But private economists continue to project that Brazil’s economy, the largest in Latin America, will expand well below official government estimates.
Japan PM expects BOJ to stay focused on achieving 2 percent inflation target
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday he expects the Bank of Japan to maintain efforts to achieve its 2 percent inflation target.
The government “will take appropriate steps on currency policies in close communication with currency authorities in the United States and others, as currency stability is important and sharp exchange-rate moves are undesirable,” Kishida told parliament, when asked about the yen’s recent weakening and its impact on the economy.
Colombia central bank may hike rate higher than initially expected
Colombia’s central bank is likely to hike its benchmark interest rate by at least 150 basis points — the highest figure in two decades — on Thursday, as policymakers around the world struggle to control soaring inflation.
A majority of analysts in a Reuters poll last week — 13 of 16 — estimated the seven-member board will raise borrowing costs to 5.50 percent, which would mark the largest uptick since November 1999.
“Larger inflationary pressures, added to the rapid reduction in the production gap and the ample twin deficits (in trade balance and current account), support a more contractive monetary policy posture,” said David Cubides, an economist at Itau.
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