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US consumer inflation hits four decade high; World Bank cuts South Asia growth forecast — Macro Snapshot
RIYADH: The US consumer inflation hit another four-decade high in March when it reached 8.5 percent in large part on gasoline prices surging to a record, but the data sported enough soft spots for some Wall Street pundits to declare “peak inflation” was at hand.
Fed Gov. Lael Brainard, speaking on the heels of the Consumer Price Index’s release on Tuesday, said the fact that one main measure of the pace of month-to-month inflation slowed in March gave her “confidence that we are going to be successful in achieving” the Fed’s 2 percent inflation goal.
UK inflation hits 30-year high
British consumer price inflation leapt to its highest level in three decades last month, intensifying the pressure on embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his finance minister Rishi Sunak to ease the cost-of-living squeeze.
The annual inflation rate climbed to 7 percent in March from 6.2 percent in February, its highest since March 1992 and by more than expected by most economists in a Reuters poll, official data showed on Wednesday.
Bank of Canada eyes rate hike
The Bank of Canada on Wednesday is expected to announce its first half-point interest-rate increase in over 20 years, as the central bank accelerates its tightening timeline to tackle an overheating economy, analysts said.
Canada’s six largest banks all foresee a half-point increase to 1.0 percent from 0.5 percent when the central bank releases its rate decision at 10 a.m. ET (1400 GMT), rather than the quarter-point increment the bank usually favors. Money markets see about a 85 percent chance of the larger increase.
“Inflation is running well above the BoC’s target, the economy has fully recovered pandemic losses, and the jobless rate is the lowest since at least the mid-1970s, leaving absolutely no rationale for monetary policy to still be stimulative,” said Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates & macro strategist at BMO Economics, in a note.
Portugal’s 2022 budget targets deficit cut
Portugal’s government gently trimmed this year’s growth outlook and saw inflation accelerating stoked by the war in Ukraine, but stuck to its promise to cut the budget deficit to 1.9 percent of GDP, according to its draft 2022 budget unveiled on Wednesday.
The country has been rolling over last year’s spending plan so far this year after parliament rejected the then minority Socialist government’s budget in October, triggering a snap election. The ballot gave the Socialists a working majority and the new government was sworn in on March 30.
Last year, the budget deficit was 2.8 percent.
The draft budget that was sent to parliament on Wednesday sees the economy growing 4.9 percent this year, below the previous forecast of 5 percent announced last month, and in line with last year’s expansion.
It expects harmonized inflation in Portugal to accelerate to 4 percent this year from 0.9 percent in 2021, stoked by a sharp rise in energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The debt-to-GDP ratio, which finished last year at 127.4 percent after dropping from 2020’s record highs of 135.2 percent, is expected to end this year at 120.7 percent.
World Bank cuts South Asia growth forecast
The World Bank cut its economic growth forecast for India and the whole South Asian region on Wednesday, citing worsening supply bottlenecks and rising inflation risks caused by the Ukraine crisis.
The international lender lowered its growth estimate for India, the region’s largest economy, to 8 percent from 8.7 percent for the current fiscal year to March, 2023 and cut by a full percentage point the growth outlook for South Asia, excluding Afghanistan, to 6.6 percent.
Ghana’s consumer inflation
Ghana’s consumer price inflation accelerated to 19.4 percent year-on-year in March from 15.7 percent the previous month, the statistics service said on Wednesday, a record since inflation figures were rebased in 2018.
The West African nation’s latest inflation reading raced far outside the government’s targeted band of 8 percent plus or minus 2 percent.
China’s imports unexpectedly fall
China’s imports unexpectedly fell in March as COVID-19 curbs across large parts of the country hampered freight arrivals and weakened domestic demand, while export growth slowed, prompting analysts to expect a worsening in trade in the second quarter.
The softer trade figures are likely to reinforce expectations of more policy support from the government, with an adviser on Wednesday calling for cuts in banks’ reserve requirements and interest rates to boost a flagging economy.
Greek unemployment eases to 12.8 percent in February
Greece’s jobless rate fell to 12.8 percent in February from an upwardly revised 12.9 percent the previous month, data from statistics service ELSTAT showed on Wednesday.
After hitting a record high of 27.8 percent in September 2013, Greece’s jobless rate has been falling but it remains the highest in the euro zone.
Joblessness affected women more than men, with the respective rates in February at 16.1 percent and 10.1 percent.
Greece’s economic rebound from the pandemic slowed in last year’s fourth quarter, weighed down by net exports, but for the year as a whole the economy grew 8.3 percent after a sharp downturn in 2020.
Spain March final CPI rises
Spanish consumer prices rose 9.8 percent year-on-year in March, the fastest pace since May 1985, final official data showed on Wednesday, confirming a flash estimate released two weeks ago.
Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, was 3.4 percent year on year, the same level as the flash estimate, and up from a reading of 3.0 percent a month earlier, the National Statistics Institute data showed.
(With input from Reuters)
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