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06.05.2009 21:03 Russia`s foreign trade surplus fell to $23.4 billion in January-March 2009

Russia`s foreign trade surplus fell to $23.4 billion in January-March 2009 from $53.7 billion in the same period a year ago, the Federal Customs Service said. It provided the following data: exports fell 47.6 percent to $56.9 billion, imports fell 39.0 percent to $33.5 billion. The Bank of Russia expects the trade surplus to exceed $50bn in 2009, First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank Alexei Ulyukayev told a Russian banking conference in Moscow on May 6th. "We expect a significant decrease in imports as a result of the ruble`s devaluation effect. With this in mind, the trade surplus will be significant and may even top $50bn," he observed. Russia`s February inflation proved to be lower than in a number of European countries, according to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service`s (Rosstat) report on the increase in consumer prices based on the publications by Eurostat and national statistics services. According to Rosstat`s data, Belgium accounted for the highest inflation among European countries with 2.3 percent in February. Meanwhile, inflation stood at 1.8 percent in Luxemburg, and 1.1-1.5 percent in Belarus, Ukraine and Latvia. At the same time, consumer prices went down in Greece, Estonia and Turkey 1.1-0.3 percent in February compared to the previous month. In Russia, the prices for products and services edged up 1.7 percent compared to January and 4.1 percent compared to December 2008.

29.04.2009 21:35 U.S. Economy Shrank at 6.1% Rate in First Quarter of 2009

The slumping U.S. economy barely improved early this year, with businesses slashing spending and inventories, according to a surprising report indicating the recession didn`t ease as much as expected. Gross domestic product decreased at a seasonally adjusted 6.1% annual rate January through March despite rising consumer spending, the Commerce Department said Wednesday in its first estimate of first-quarter GDP. The 6.1% drop was much bigger than Wall Street expected and hardly different than a 6.3% plunge in the fourth quarter, when the recession that began in December 2007 deepened. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a 4.6% drop in GDP during the first three months of 2009. With a 0.5% drop in the third quarter, GDP has now fallen three consecutive quarters. That hasn`t happened in 34 years, since third-quarter 1974 through first-quarter 1975. Price indicators within Wednesday`s report suggested inflationary pressures rose in first-quarter 2009, easing fears of deflation. For instance, the price index for personal consumption expenditures fell by 1.0%, a decline much smaller than the fall of 4.9% in the fourth-quarter 2008. The PCE price gauge excluding food and energy rose 1.5%, after increasing 0.9% in the fourth quarter. GDP acts as a scoreboard for the economy by measuring all goods and services produced. Its biggest component is consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of GDP. First-quarter spending increased 2.2%, after dropping 4.3% in the fourth quarter. Purchases of durable goods rose 9.4% in the first quarter, after decreasing by 22.1% October through December. First-quarter non-durables spending climbed by 1.3%. Services spending rose 1.5%. International trade boosted the economy early this year, adding 1.99 percentage points to GDP. U.S. exports plunged 30.0% and imports decreased 34.1%. In the fourth quarter, trade deducted 0.15 of a percentage point out of GDP; exports in that period were 23.6% lower and imports fell by 17.5%.

27.04.2009 16:05 International Monetary Fund revises growth forecasts down significantly

The latest forecast by the IMF in its World Economic Outlook shows the global economy contracting in 2009 by 1.3%. While the rate of contraction should moderate from the second quarter of 2009 onward, output per capita is projected to decline in countries representing three-quarters of the global economy. Growth is projected to reemerge in 2010, but at 1.9% it would be sluggish relative to past recoveries. IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard told reporters that the world economy was being battered by competing crosscurrents, with the collapse in confidence and demand continuing to pull the economy down and government stimulus measures and natural stabilization mechanisms pulling the economy up. This is not the time for complacency, and the need for strong policies, both on the macro and especially on the financial fronts, is as acute as ever. But, with such policies in place, there is light at the end of this long tunnel. World growth can turn positive by the end of this year, and unemployment can start decreasing by the end of next year. The IMF experts revised their January forecasts down significantly, particularly for the export nations Germany and Japan, namely, by over three percentage points. The IMF is predicting that growth in Germany will decline by 5.6% in 2009, whereas the six German economic research institutes, which have also published their forecasts, are expecting a drop of 6%. The forecasts are thus getting closer to our prediction of 7%. Eurozone GDP is expected to shrink by 4% this year, and to contract further by 1% in 2010. In comparison, the figures for the US appear almost upbeat: there, the IMF is expecting GDP contraccontraction of only 2.8% in 2009, and stagnation next year. The United Kingdom`s economy was forecast to shrink by 4% in 2009 and the United States by 2.8%.

20.04.2009 20:42 Industrial production in euro area fell by 2.3% in February 2009

In February 2009 compared with January 2009, seasonally adjusted industrial production fell by 2.3% in the euro area (EA16) and by 1.9% in the EU27. In January production decreased by 2.4% and 2.3% respectively. In February 2009 compared with February 2008, industrial production declined by 18.4% in the euro area and by 17.5% in the EU27. These estimates are released by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. In February 2009 compared with January 2009, production of energy fell by 1.0% in the euro area and by 1.3% in the EU27. Non-durable consumer goods decreased by 1.4% and 1.1% respectively. Intermediate goods dropped by 2.4% in the euro area and by 2.0% in the EU27. Capital goods declined by 3.0% and 2.3% respectively. Durable consumer goods fell by 4.3% in the euro area and 2.9% in the EU27. Among the Member States for which data are available, industrial production fell in sixteen and rose only in Portugal (+2.4%), Greece (+1.7%) and Poland (+0.4%). The most significant falls were registered in Lithuania (-4.1%), Estonia (-3.6%), Italy (-3.5%) and Germany (-3.2%). In February 2009 compared with February 2008, production of energy fell by 3.6% in the euro area and by 3.5% in the EU27. Non-durable consumer goods decreased by 6.3% and 5.4% respectively. Durable consumer goods declined by 22.1% in the euro area and by 21.0% in the EU27. Intermediate goods dropped by 24.2% and 23.7% respectively. Capital goods fell by 24.7% in the euro area and by 23.7% in the EU27. Industrial production fell in all Member States for which data are available. The largest decreases were registered in Estonia (-30.2%), Latvia (-24.2%) and Spain (-22.0%), and the smallest in Greece (-4.9%), the Netherlands (-5.9%) and Denmark (-11.8%).

15.04.2009 22:20 U.S. industrial production fell by 1.5 percent in March 2009

U.S. industrial production fell by 1.5 percent in March, the fifth consecutive monthly drop and worse than the 1 percent decline expected by analysts, the Federal Reserve reported. The bigger-than-expected drop in overall industrial production, an indicator of the output of mines, factories and utilities, followed decreases of 1.5 percent in February and 2.1 percent in January. The U.S. central bank`s report showed that manufacturing output declined 1.7 percent in March, much steeper than the 0.6 percent drop in February. That marked its fifth straight monthly decline. Decrease in electronic goods production, as well as declines in appliance, furniture and carpet manufacturing drove the reduction last month. Auto industry production rose 1.5 percent, the second straight gain after a steep fall in January. Sales for General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and other automakers are down sharply compared with a year ago, but rose 25 percent in March compared with the previous month. Mining output, a category that includes oil and natural gas production, plunged 3.2 percent last month, much worse than the 1.0 percent drop in February. Output at the nation`s utilities, however, rose by 1.8 percent in March, after warmer-than-usual weather caused a steep 7.7 percent drop in February. The overall operating rate for manufacturing, mining and utilities was 69.3 percent of capacity last month, a rate below its year-earlier level of 79.8 percent and its 1972-2008 average of 80.9 percent. The March rate was down from the 70.3 percent rate in the previous month.

12.04.2009 10:44 US will overcome recession in 2009 second half; unemployment to rise further

The U.S. recession will be over in September, but not the unemployment, which may continue to rise until the second half of 2010, says a survey released April 10th. The Blue Chip Economic Indicators survey of private economists predicts a 5 percent and 1.8 percent contraction in U.S. gross domestic product for the first two quarters of the year respectively. The third quarter of 2009 brings a more hopeful prediction of 0.4 percent growth. The survey, conducted April 3-6, revealed a "long road ahead" attitude from the economists. It showed much of the anticipated turnaround in the economy, now in its 16th month of recession, would be driven by some improvement in consumer spending, housing, business inventories and exports. Yet, above-trend growth was not expected until the second half of 2010. "The end of the decline isn`t the beginning of the recovery," said David Resler of Nomura Securities. "It`s like a boxing match. Even if you win the fight, it`s not going to feel as good when you get out of the ring as when you went in." Indeed, economists` prospects for the labour market remain bleak and just 12 percent expect the unemployment rate to fall some time this year. More than a third of respondents expect the jobless rate to peak in the first half of 2010, while about half did not see unemployment declining until the second half of next year. By December of this year, the economists on average expect the unemployment rate to reach 9.5 percent, up from the 8.5 percent reported for March.

07.04.2009 22:20 Euro area GDP down by 1.6% and EU27 GDP down by 1.5%

Euro area (EA15) GDP fell by 1.6% and EU27 GDP by 1.5% during the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with the previous quarter, according to second estimates from Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. In the third quarter of 2008, growth rates were -0.3% in both zones. In comparison with the same quarter of the previous year, seasonally adjusted GDP declined in the fourth quarter of 2008 by 1.5% in the euro area and by 1.4% in the EU27, after +0.6% and +0.7% respectively in the previous quarter. In the fourth quarter of 2008 and among the Member States for which seasonally adjusted GDP data are available, Slovakia (+2.1%) recorded the highest growth rate compared with the previous quarter, followed by Cyprus (+0.6%), Greece and Poland (both +0.3%). In the fourth quarter of 2008, household final consumption expenditure declined by 0.3% in the euro area and by 0.4% in the EU27 (after +0.1% and 0.0% respectively in the previous quarter). Investments fell by 4.0% in the euro area and by 3.3% in the EU27 (after -0.7% and -1.1%). Exports fell by 6.7% in the euro area and by 6.1% in the EU27 (after -0.2% and -0.3%). Imports decreased by 4.7% in the euro area and by 5.0% in the EU27 (after +1.3% and +0.9%). Among the main partners of the EU, GDP decreased by 1.6% in the US in the fourth quarter of 2008 (-0.1% in the previous quarter). In Japan GDP fell by 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2008 (-0.4% in the previous quarter). Compared with the fourth quarter of 2007, GDP declined by 0.8% in the US (+0.7% in the previous quarter) and by 4.3% in Japan (-0.2% in the previous quarter). Over the whole year 2008, GDP grew by 0.8% in the euro area and by 0.9% in the EU27, compared with +2.6% and +2.9% respectively for 2007. Over the whole year 2008, GDP grew by 1.1% in the US (+2.0% in 2007) and declined by 0.6% in Japan (+2.4% in 2007).

30.03.2009 21:22 Japan`s industrial production falls 9.4 percent in February 2009

Industrial production in Japan fell for a fifth month in a row, down 9.4% in February from the previous month, to stand at 68.7, according to data released March 30th from Japan`s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The seasonally adjusted index was down 38.4% from the previous year. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says the figure marks the fifth straight month of decline, with especially steep cutbacks among makers of transportation equipment and general machinery. But the ministry said Monday it is a slight improvement over January`s record 10.2 percent plunge, suggesting output may have already hit bottom. Shipments were at 70.9, down 6.8% from a month ago. However, production is expected to increase 2.9% in March and to rise 3.1% in April, according to the Survey of Production Forecast in Manufacturing, the ministry said.

26.03.2009 20:50 US GDP fell at annual rate of 6.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008

US real gross domestic product (GDP) fell at an annual rate of 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to final estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP decreased 0.5 percent. Corporate profits fell 16.5%, the largest decline since the fourth quarter of 1953. The GDP estimates released March 26th are based on more complete source data than were available for the preliminary estimates issued last month. In the preliminary estimates, the decrease in real GDP was 6.2 percent. The decrease in real GDP in the fourth quarter primarily reflected negative contributions from exports, personal consumption expenditures, equipment and software, and residential fixed investment that were partly offset by a positive contribution from federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased. Most of the major components contributed to the much larger decrease in real GDP in the fourth quarter than in the third. The largest contributors were a downturn in exports and a much larger decrease in equipment and software. The most notable offset was a much larger decrease in imports. The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by US residents, decreased 3.9 percent in the fourth quarter, 0.2 percentage point less of a decrease than the preliminary estimate; this index increased 4.5 percent in the third quarter. Excluding food and energy prices, the price index for gross domestic purchases increased 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 2.8 percent in the third.

21.03.2009 11:45 Russia`s economy shrank 8 percent in the first two months of the year

Russia`s economy shrank 8 percent in the first two months of the year, the Economy Ministry said on Friday, as First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov signalled that growth could return by the year`s end. The Russian economy has been rocked by a collapse in oil prices, vast outflows of capital and waning demand for exports as the global economic crisis intensified. Consequently, gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to contract by 7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina told the government on Thursday, according to the text of her speech published on March 20. The ministry stuck by its forecast for full-year contraction of just 2.2 percent, suggesting things could improve before too long. That optimism was picked up by Shuvalov. "In some sectors we are noticing more liveliness, and a positive mood," he told reporters on Friday. "We are already near the bottom and we feel that by the end of the year we could have growth... (But) it could be worse if the situation on the external market deteriorates." The Economy Ministry`s first quarter forecast would be twice as fast as the contraction seen by economists in a Reuters poll and compares to growth of 1.1 percent in the previous quarter. However, data suggests that the situation stabilised in February - even though the slowdown is in full swing and companies are cutting thousands of jobs a day - giving some cause for investors and politicians to feel more optimistic. Authorities have managed a depreciation of the currency, avoiding panic but also reducing imports to keep the current account balance in surplus. Oil is now worth $5 more than the $41 a barrel year average factored into the government`s 2009 forecasts and budget. But any signs of light at the end of the tunnel could be quickly extinguished by a renewed slump in crude prices. "In an optimistic scenario of renewed world economic growth in 2010, and rising oil prices, the Russian economy could grow by between 2 and 4 percent in 2010," Nabiullina said. She added that the realisation of government anti-crisis measures - worth some 1.6 trillion roubles ($47 billion) this year - would play an key part in the economy`s turnaround.

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