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UK growth stutters in February; Malaysia’s February industrial production rises — Macro Snapshot

RIYADH: Britain’s economy slowed more sharply than expected in February, reflecting a hit to car production from component shortages, storm disruption and reduced health spending as households braced for a tighter cost-of-living squeeze.

Monthly gross domestic product growth was just 0.1 percent in February compared with 0.8 percent in January, the Office for National Statistics said on Monday, below the 0.3 percent forecast by economists in a Reuters poll.

“The news that the economy was hardly growing at all in February … increases the risk of a contraction in GDP in the coming months as the squeeze on household real incomes intensifies,” Ruth Gregory, a senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said.

Britain’s economy in February was 1.5 percent larger than it was two years earlier, just before the country was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ONS said.

Malaysia’s industrial production 

Malaysia’s industrial production in February rose 3.9 percent from a year earlier, below forecast, government data showed on Monday.

February’s industrial production was expected to rise 4 percent, according to 9 economists surveyed in a Reuters poll.

China’s PPI rises 

China’s factory inflation slowed slightly in March but beat expectations, data showed on Monday, as the country grapples with cost pressures caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and persistent supply chain bottlenecks.

The producer price index increased 8.3 percent year-on-year, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), easing from 8.8 percent growth in February but beating a forecast for a 7.9 percent rise in a Reuters poll.

China’s consumer price index inched up 1.5 percent year-on-year, after a gain of 0.9 percent in February, compared with 1.2 percent tipped by a Reuters poll.

The world’s second-largest economy came under downward pressure in March with renewed COVID-19 outbreaks and manufacturing and service sectors reporting declines in activity. 

Israel hikes key rate

The Bank of Israel raised its benchmark interest rate for the first time in 3-1/2 years on Monday, as expected, to combat rising inflation partly caused by robust economic growth and a tight labor market.

The central bank lifted its key rate to 0.35 percent from 0.1 percent — an all-time low where it had stayed for the prior 15 decisions since a 0.15 point reduction at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Israeli economy is recording strong growth, accompanied by a tight labor market and an increase in the inflation environment,” the central bank said.

Israel’s annual inflation rate reached an 11-year high of 3.5 percent in February, moving above the government’s 1 percent-3 percent annual target range. At the same time, Israel’s economy grew 8.2 percent in 2021, while the jobless rate has fallen to 3.2 percent.

In recent weeks Bank of Israel Gov. Amir Yaron and deputy Andrew Abir have prepared the markets for higher rates, saying the cycle would move faster than expected.

(With input from Reuters)






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