Notes from my desk – a little of this and a little of that

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 reported Friday. That’s usually a good sign because it means people believe more work is available.

The increase in nonfarm jobs topped 200,000 for the third straight month, which reinforces the view of an economy gathering strength as 2012 unfolds. The past three months of full-time job growth is the fastest since the end of the recession and marks the best performance since 2006.

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 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 dollar gained against most major rivals on Friday, with details on Greece’s bond swap due as well as key U.S. jobs data. The ICE dollar index which measures the greenback against a basket of six currencies traded at 79.21, from 79.090 late the previous day.

UK construction output fell sharply in January following a large decrease in December, figures published by National Statistics Friday showed. Construction output fell 12.3% on the month in January, after a 11.8% monthly decline in December. Output was down 2.3%compared with January 2011. Output prices rose at their fastest since April 2011 and core inflation ticked up for the first time in five months, raising concerns over the inflationary outlook. Manufacturing output growth eased in January, following a strong rise in the previous month

Inflation expectations for the year ahead eased back in February to 3.5% from the 4.1% seen in November, the latest Bank of England/ GfK NOP Inflation Attitudes survey shows. This was the lowest reading on this measure since August 2010.Expectations for inflation in the 12 months after that also eased back to 2.9% from 3.4% In November while longer-term inflation expectations (i.e. in 5 years time or so) fell to 3.2% from the 3.5%seen in November.

Spain: Commission spokesman said “Technicians of the European Commission have been in Madrid this week to collect information on the 2011 public accounts” adding “it is a normal practice in all countries under an excessive deficit procedure”

Italy: January SA industrial output -2.5% m/m, WDA -5.0% y/y,on a contraction across all output sectors, posting the worst fall in the y/y index since Dec 2009 (-6.5% y/y). The m/m decline follows m/m gains of +1.2% in December and +0.2% in November.–January unadjusted y/y output fell -2.1%, up from -7.7% y/y in Dec

 France’s central government deficit at end-January amounted to E12.5 billion, down E918 million from the previous-year level, the Budget Ministry said Friday. Outlays totaled E32.8 billion, E6.5 billion higher than in January 2011. This was mainly due to a new financial management system that allowed ministries to hit the ground running at the start of the year, the ministry explained.

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, according to data released Friday. The CPI print is lower than the 3.4% expected by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and FactSet Research, and is sharply lower than the 4.5% increase seen in January. 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. Industrial production for the January to February period climbed 11.4%, falling short of a 12.4% increase anticipated in a FactSet Research survey. Retail sales for the two-month period climbed 14.7%, also coming in below expectations of a 17.5% jump.

Iraq had opened last month the new Single-point Mooring, or SPM, built by a subsidiary of Australia’s Leighton Holding Ltd. , but bad weather and some technical faults delayed the start of loading from the terminal, one of five the company is building in southern Iraq. Iraq has started crude oil exports from a new floating terminal at a rate ranging between 240,000-600,000 barrels a day, a senior Iraqi oil official said Friday. Iraq is currently exporting around 1.7 million barrels a day from the south, but it couldn’t export some extra 150,000-200,000 barrels a day because of lack of export capacity in Basra oil terminals,

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