Gross Domestic product
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Mozambique’s central bank held its benchmark standing facility rate steady at 9.50 percent, saying it would intervene in money markets to ensure that the monetary base does not exceed 39.70 billion meticais by the end of May compared with 38.81 billion at the end of April.
The Bank of Mozambique (CPMO), which has held its rate steady this year after cutting by 550 basis points in 2012, said indicators of the economic climate pointed to lower economic activity, interrupting the upward trend that had been seen since July last year, while expectations regarding demand also showed a decline though employment prospects remained positive.
Mozambique’s inflation rate rose to 4.79 percent in April, up from 4.27 percent, though well below a peak of 16.6 percent at the end of 2010.
“The behavior of inflation in the first four months of the year reflects a scenario of a difficult early year, marked by floods that affected the food supply in some markets, especially fruits and vegetables, as well as the increase in average prices of some commodities in the international market, which weighed on domestic inflation, without neglecting the strengthening of the U.S. dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market,” the CPMO said.
Following its recent visit to Mozambique, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that inflation would remain around 5-6 percent in the medium term despite the declining trend that was interrupted by the floods.
The IMF said Mozambique’s economy remains robust, “reflecting the rapid expansion in coal production as well as in financial services, transport and communications, and agriculture.”
Last month the central bank cut its 2013 growth forecast to 7 percent from a previous 8 percent due to extensive flooding in the southern and central areas of the country in the first few months of the year, which affected mining output and agriculture. In 2012 the economy grew by 7.4 percent.
Mozambique’s Gross Domestic Product expanded by 2.3 percent in fourth quarter of 2012 for annual growth of 8.3 percent, up from a rate of 6.9 percent in the third quarter.
The IMF also forecast that Mozambique’s economy would expand by around 7 percent this year as mining expands and agricultural production recovers from the floods.
The central bank said the metical was quoted at 30.02 against the U.S. dollar on the last day of April, equivalent to a monthly appreciation of 0.20 percent compared with a depreciation of 0.30 percent in the previous month, taking the cumulative and annual depreciation to 1.73 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively.
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The Central Reserve Bank of Peru (BCRP), which has held rates steady since April 2011, said inflation was projected to converge to the midpoint of the bank’s 1-3 percent target range over the next months due to improved food supply while production remains close to potential and inflation expectations are anchored around the target range.
Peru’s headline inflation rate eased to 2.3 percent in April, down from 2.6 percent while the core inflation rate was 3.4 percent. The central bank has forecast that inflation this year will be between 1.5 and 2.5 percent.
Peru’s economy has stabilized around its sustainable level although the sectors related to the external market continue remain weak, the BCRP added.
Peru’s Gross Domestic Product expanded by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter from the third for annual growth of 5.9 percent, down from 6.8 percent.
Last year Peru’s economy grew by 6.3 percent, the fastest growth rate in Latin America, but down from 6.9 percent in 2011.
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South Korea’s central bank cut its base rate by 25 basis points to 2.50 percent, saying downside risks to global growth remain “considerable” while domestic growth remains weak with the negative output gap likely to continue for a considerable time.
The Bank of Korea (BOK), which surprised many by holding its rate steady last month, said it would closely monitor the effect of its rate cut and the government’s 17.3 trillion won supplementary budget to keep inflation within its target over the medium term.
Last month the BOK’s Monetary Policy Committee also said there were downside risks to the global economy but this month it used stronger language by describing these risks as considerable.
At its meeting in April, the BOK decided by a narrow 4-3 vote to hold rates steady despite government pressure. It is the BOK’s first rate cut this year after two cuts in 2012, when the base rate was cut by 50 basis points.
The BOK said moderate economic recovery in the US was continuing but the sluggishness of the euro area’s economy has deepened and “the trends of improvement in economic indicators in emerging market countries such as China have been weaker than initially anticipated.”
“The Committee expects the global economy to continue its modest recovery going forward, but judges that the downside risks to growth remain considerable due chiefly to uncertainties related to for instance the sluggishness of economic activity in the euro area and to the implementations of fiscal consolidation in major countries,” the BOK said.
Korea’s Gross Domestic Product expanded by a stronger-than-expected 0.9 percent in the first quarter from the fourth quarter’s 0.3 percent, the highest growth rate in two years, signs interpreted by some observers that last year’s rate cuts were starting to pay off.
But the BOK said growth remains weak, and although exports are recovering, the pace is modest and domestic demand is alternating between improvement and worsening.
“Going forward, there is no change to the Committee’s forecast that the domestic economy will show a negative output gap for a considerable time, due mostly to the slow recovery of the global economy, to the influence of the Japanese yen weakening, and to the geopolitical risk in Korea,” the bank said.
South Korea’s economy expanded by 2.0 percent in 2012, down from 2011’s 3.6 percent, and the BOK now expects 2013 growth of 2.6 percent, slightly higher than the government’s 2.3 percent forecast.
Korea’s inflation rate fell to 1.2 percent in April from 1.3 percent the prior month, well below the BOK’s 2.5-3.5 percent range for the 2013-2015 period. Core inflation also eased to 1.4 percent from 1.5 percent in March.
The BOK expects inflation to remain low for the time being.
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Norway’s central bank held its policy rate steady at 1.5 percent and said it saw no reason to revise its view from March that the rate will remain around this level for the next year and then gradually rise toward a more normal level.
Norges Bank, which cut its rate by 25 basis points in 2012, said Norway’s economy had evolved largely in line with the central bank’s expectations and “global growth remains robust” while growth prospects for the euro area had weakened somewhat.
Deputy Governor, Jan Qvigstad, said in a statement that inflation had been slightly lower than expected and wages were expected to rise somewhat slower than forecast. On the other hand, the Norwegian krone had depreciated, unemployment was low and Norway’s economy was growing at a solid pace while household debt continued to rise from a high level.
“The key policy rate is low because inflation is low and because external interest rates are very low,” Qvigstad said, repeating the bank’s oft-used phrase.
In March Norway’s inflation rose to 1.4 percent from 1.0 percent in February, but still well below the central bank’s 2.5 percent target. The last time inflation was above the bank’s target was in December 2011 and since February 2012 it has been below 2.0 percent.
The Norwegian central bank first started easing its upward rate bias last October and finally at its previous meeting in March the central bank delayed any rate change until next year.
“In March, the key policy rate was projected to remain at around the current level for the next year before being raised gradually towards a more normal level. There is no basis for changing this assessment for now,” Qvigstad said.
Norway’s Gross Domestic Product expanded by 3.5 percent 2012, up from 2.5 percent in 2011, but the government this week cut its 2013 growth forecast to only 1.4 percent from a previous forecast of 2.5 percent.
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Australia’s central bank’ cut its benchmark cash rate by 25 basis points to 2.75 percent as lower-than-expected inflation had given it scope to cut rates to “encourage sustainable growth in the economy.”
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which embarked on an easing cycle in October 2011 and last cut its rate in November 2012, said economic growth had been a little below trend in the second half of last year and this appears to have continued into 2013 with employment growing slower than the labor force so the jobless rate had increased slightly.
“The exchange rate, on the other hand, has been little changed at a historically high level over the past 18 months, which is unusual given the decline in export prices and interest rates during that time,” the RBA said, adding demand for credit was currently “relatively subdued.”
Economists had been mixed in their expectations for the outcome of today’s RBA policy decision and the Australian dollar fell sharply following news of the rate cut, quoted around 1.02 per US dollar, down from highs around 1.06 in early January.
The RBA, which has now cut rates by 200 basis points since October 2011 to a new historic low, repeated recent statements that the effects of previous easing were continuing to emerge, with savers changing their portfolios toward assets with higher expected returns, rising asset values and higher spending in some areas that are more sensitive to interest rates.
Consumption has also been rising and home investments have firmed modestly with the prospect for higher business investment outside the resources sector over the next year and exports of raw materials were rising as increased capacity comes on stream.
“These developments, some of which have been assisted by the reductions in interest rates that began 18 months ago, will all be helpful in sustaining growth,” the RBA said.
Australia’s Gross Domestic Product rose by only 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, for annual growth of 3.1 percent, the same rate of expansion as in the third quarter.
The unemployment rate rose to 5.6 percent in March, the highest rate since October 2009, and the RBA expects the rate to rise further towards 5.75 percent this year.
The inflation rate has remained in line with the RBA’s target of 2-3 percent, but “if anything, a little lower than expected,”the bank said, adding that labour costs had moderated slightly in recent quarters and productivity growth appeared to be improving, holding back prices for non-tradable goods.
Australia’s inflation rate rose to 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013, up from 2.2 in the fourth quarter of 2012, and the RBA said it expects inflation to remain in line with its target over the next two years.
“The Board has previously noted that the inflation outlook would afford scope to ease further, should that be necessary to support demand,” the RBA said, adding:
“At today’s meeting the Board decided to use some of that scope. It judged that a further decline in the cash rate was appropriate to encourage sustainable growth in the economy, consistent with achieving the inflation target.”
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The European Central Bank (ECB) cut the rate on its benchmark refinancing facility by 25 basis points to 0.50 percent, as widely expected, along with a 50 basis point cut on the rate on its marginal lending facility to 1.0 percent. The rate on its deposit facility will remain steady at 0.0 percent, the ECB said in a brief statement.
ECB President Mario Draghi will comment on the decision by the ECB council at a press conference later today.
Speculation had intensified in recent days that the ECB would cut rates following news that the inflation rate for the 17 nations sharing the single currency fell to 1.2 percent in April, the lowest since February 2010, and well below the ECB’s target of inflation that is below but close to 2 percent.
Economic recession, growing unemployment and recent comments by ECB council members also fueled speculation of a rate cut. Last month Germany’s Jens Weidmann, head of the Bundesbank, said the ECB would only cut rates if the economic situation worsened and then both Draghi and Klaas Knot of the Netherlands central bank said the economic situation was not improving.
Last month at the ECB’s press conference, Draghi said the bank was keeping a close eye on economic data for its impact on monetary policy and was ready to act. He also said the ECB was looking at various instruments and tools to stimulate economic activity.
The unemployment rate in the euro zone rose to 12.1 percent in Mach from 12.0 percent, the highest level since Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office, started collecting the data in 1995.
The euro zone’s Gross Domestic Product shrank by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, its fifth quarterly contraction in a row, for an annual decline of 0.9 percent, up from 0.6 percent in the third quarter. Economist forecast a further contraction in the first quarter of this year.
Global policy makers have also put pressure on the ECB to stimulate the economy with the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, last month saying the ECB still has room to manoeuvre and could cut rates.
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