My Desk Diary March 5-9th Events Around the Globe

The events listed under each geographic area, start from the most current to the earliest of the week from March 5-9th. Many events are left out as they have been updated or changed by newer releases. For example the ADP payroll report is not listed since the US report superseded it on Friday; events during the week involving the PSI bond swap are also left off since the only news that is important is it was completed.

USA

The U.S. created 227,000 jobs in February and more people found work in the prior two months than previously reported, suggesting the economy’s recent momentum is likely to continue.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, was unchanged at 8.3% as nearly half-a-million workers reentered the labor force in search of job, the Labor Department.

Household debt edged up 0.3% in the fourth quarter, the Fed reported in its flow-of-funds report, as consumer credit surged at a 7% annualized rate. Household debt had declined for 13 consecutive periods before the slender fourth-quarter advance.

The U.S. trade deficit widened sharply in January, driven higher by record imports of autos, capital goods and food, government data reported.  The trade gap expanded 4.3% in January to $52.6 billion from $50.4 billion in December.

The Fed is considering a new form of “sterilized” quantitative easing that would allow asset purchases despite high oil prices, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Under the new approach, the Fed would print new money to buy long-term mortgage or Treasury bonds but effectively tie up that money by borrowing it back for short periods at low rates. The aim of such an approach would be to relieve anxieties that money printing could fuel inflation later, a fear widely expressed by critics of the Fed’s previous efforts to aid the recovery.

The Canadian Central Bank held rates today at 1% following the lead of banks around the world.

The Institute of Supply Management said its non-manufacturing PMI climbed to 57.3 in February from a reading of 56.8 the previous month. Economists had expected the index to decline to 56.1.

Another report showed that U.S. factory orders fell, but at a slower than forecast rate in January, declining by a seasonally adjusted 1.0%, compared to forecasts for a 1.3% slide.

Europe

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association said Friday that the Greek government’s use of collective-action clauses, or CACs, to amend to terms of Greece-issued bonds qualifies as a “credit event” for Greece. A credit event requires a payout to those who held credit default swaps as insurance to protect them in the event of a Greek default.

The Fitch ratings agency downgraded Greece to “restricted default” over the bond swap — a move that had been expected. Fitch was the third agency to downgrade Greece into default, after Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

The deal is done, finally. Greece finished their debt swap with private creditors. Bondholders representing some 85% of Greece’s outstanding private-sector debt, well above the government’s minimum threshold, have agreed to the swap, easing pressures on the eurozone.

Conditions are in place for Greece to get its second bailout, said Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker in a statement released Friday. “I welcome the significant progress achieved in the preparation of the second Greek adjustment program,” said Juncker, after a teleconference between euro-zone finance ministers on Friday

The Bank of England announced their current rate decision which was as expected to hold rates. No new additions to their monetary easing policies announced in February.

The European Central Bank committee held lending rates at the current rate of 1% and made no comments on any additional lending policies.

Prices for Italian government bonds jumped and Spanish bonds also rose Thursday, sending yields lower on expectations Greece will successfully complete its voluntary debt swap with private investors. Italy’s 10-year bond yield fell 0.20

 German production climbed 1.6% from December. Economists were expecting an increase of 1.1% in the euro zone’s largest economy. 

In the UK, house prices fell by 0.5% in February from January and were down 1.9% in the three months to February from the same period a year ago, according to the Halifax House Price Index. Prices were down 1.1% in the latest three months to February from the previous 3-month period.

EU’s Rehn: Eurozone Currently in a Mild Recession but Signs of Improvement but, risk of credit crunch in European economy has been prevented largely due to long-term liquidity offer of ECB. The Commission supports combining remaining resources of EFSF with ESM to make sturdier European firewall.

UK services sector saw growth slow in February after the surge in January, the CIPS/Markit index shows. The headline service sector CIPS/Markit index fell to 53.8 in February from an unrevised 56.0 in January, well below analysts’ median forecast for a 55.0 outturn. The detail, however, was more encouraging showing a rise in business expectations and easing inflation pressure.

Business expectations rose to their highest level for a year while output charges declined. Markit said sales were supported by discounting, with margins squeezed as input cost continued to rise.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday announced a new deficit to gross domestic product target for the country of 5.8% in 2012, against a prior target of 4.4%, according to media reports. Rajoy made the comments in Brussels. Spanish media has been reporting for days that the government would raise its target.

Asia

Australia posted a seasonally-adjusted trade deficit of 673 million Australian dollars ($717.2 million) in January, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Friday. Economists had been expecting a surplus of A$1.5 billion

China’s consumer price index rose at a weaker-than-expected rate of 3.2% in February from the same month a year earlier. The producer price index for February came in at 0%, also weaker than expected and slowing from January’s 0.7% year-on-year increase.

China’s industrial production and retail sales growth weakened in the first two months of 2012 from the year-earlier period, an official data release showed Friday.

The New Zealand Reserve Bank has held the official cash rate at its historic low of 2.5 per cent at its review. Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard opted against making a rate change when releasing the quarterly monetary policy statement. He said if the New Zealand dollar remained at its high levels it would lessen the need to raise the rate. Dr Bollard says the New Zealand economy was continuing to improve despite the export sector being impacted by the high dollar.

Australia’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage points to 5.2% in February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Thursday Australia’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product rose 0.4% against economists’ expectations of a 0.8% gain, disappointing government officials and the markets.

South Korea kept its key interest rate on hold at 3.25% on Thursday, according to reports. The decision was widely expected.

Japan’s trade deficit widened in January to 1.382 trillion yen ($17.0 billion), up 245.9% compared to the year past. Japan’s current account deficit totaled 437.3 billion yen in the month. The trade deficit and current account deficit were the largest on record.

China will extend yuan-denominated loans to other nations that make up the Bric group of nations.

Japan’s crude imports from Iran in January fell 23 percent from a year ago to 1.67 million kiloliters, or 338,900 barrels a day, according to data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

Premier Wen Jiabao, in his annual state-of-the nation report to China’s parliament, reduces growth for 2012 of 7.5 percent. That would be the slowest pace of expansion since 1990 and well down on last year’s 9.2 percent growth rate.

Japan’s unemployment rate inched up to 4.6 per cent in January from a revised 4.5 per cent in the previous month.

January household spending fell by an inflation-adjusted 2.3 per cent year-on-year. The fall was bigger than a 0.8 per cent drop economists had expected.

The nation didn’t sell any of its currency from Jan. 30 to Feb. 27, the ministry’s month-end data posted on its website shows.

Companies’ capital spending jumped by the most in nearly five years in the fourth quarter. Capital spending excluding software rose 4.9 percent from a year earlier, after declining 11 percent in the previous quarter.

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