Archive for May, 2011

Belarus’ president threatens to ban foreign media

Friday, May 27th, 2011 | Finance News

MINSK, Belarus – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to ban some foreign media organizations from working in the country after what he described as alarmist coverage of the deepening financial crisis.

Lukashenko directed his harshest criticism Friday at the Russian media, since many Belarusians watch Russian television.

He also ominiously criticized Belarusian journalists working for foreign organizations and ordered the government to "make sure those media organizations no longer work on our territory."

The National Bank this week cut the value of the Belarusian ruble against the dollar almost in half, which set off panic buying.

Belarusians are buying up goods and lining to get dollars or euros in an attempt to protect their savings.

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Consumer spending tepid as inflation accelerates

Friday, May 27th, 2011 | Finance News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Consumer spending rose modestly in April, starting the second quarter on a soft note as high gasoline prices continued to squeeze household finances and keep inflation pressures simmering.

The Commerce Department said on Friday consumer spending increased 0.4 percent, rising for a 10th straight month, after a 0.5 percent gain in March. It also said annual inflation rose at its fastest pace in 12 months.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, to rise 0.5 percent last month.

When adjusted for inflation, spending nudged up 0.1 percent last month after gaining 0.1 percent in March.

"This shows that the trend going in the second quarter is weaker than what people had thought. This promotes caution about projecting faster growth in the second quarter," said Pierre Ellis, a senior global economist at Decision Economics in New York.

Consumer spending rose at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter, braking sharply from a 4 percent pace in the October-December period. That contributed to holding back growth to a 1.8 percent pace during the quarter.

But a recent cooling in gasoline prices should ease some of the pressure on households and boost spending in the months ahead.

The national price for regular unleaded gasoline prices slipped to $3.90 a gallon in the week through Monday, according to the Energy Information Administration, after peaking just above $4 a gallon early in the month.

Government bond prices extended losses on the data, while stock index futures were little changed.

High food and energy prices in April kept inflation elevated last month, with the personal consumption expenditures price (PCE) index rising 0.3 percent after advancing 0.4 percent in March.

Compared to April last year, the index was up 2.2 percent, the biggest rise in a year, after increasing 1.8 percent in March.

The core PCE index -- excluding food and energy - increased 0.2 percent on month after rising 0.1 percent in March.

The core index, which is closely watched by Federal Reserve officials, increased 1.0 percent in the 12 months through April, the largest gain since September. The index rose 0.9 percent year-on-year in March and the Fed would like to see it closer to 2 percent.

Incomes rose 0.4 percent last month, in line with expectations and after a 0.4 percent increase in March. Disposable incomes adjusted for inflation were flat and savings fell to an annual rate of $570.6 billion, the lowest since August 2009, from $576.7 billion in March.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, Additional reporting by Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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Instant view: Consumer spending tepid in April

Friday, May 27th, 2011 | Finance News

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Consumer spending rose less than expected in April as high gasoline prices continued to squeeze household budgets, in government data on Friday which also showed annual inflation at its fastest pace in a year.

Consumer spending increased 0.4 percent, rising for a 10th straight month, after a downwardly revised 0.5 percent gain in March. Incomes rose 0.4 percent last month, in line with expectations.

High food and energy prices in April kept inflation pressures simmering. Compared to April last year, the index was up 2.2 percent, the biggest rise in a year. The core PCE index -- excluding food and energy - increased 1.0 percent in the 12 months through April , the largest gain since September.

COMMENTS:

PAUL DALES, SENIOR U.S. ECONOMIST, CAPITAL ECONOMICS, TORONTO:

"April's U.S. personal income and spending data paint a pretty weak picture of the health of households' finances. The main story is that real disposable income was unchanged in April and downward revisions to previous months' data (which were incorporated into yesterday's release of the second estimate of first-quarter GDP) show that real incomes have not increased at all this year. Put simply, the increase in prices has almost exactly offset the boost to nominal incomes from some decent gains in employment and the payroll tax cut.

"Moreover, to raise their real spending at a fairly weak annualized rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter, households had to dip into their savings. The saving rate fell from 5.4 percent in January to 4.9 percent in March and remained at that two-year low in April. This is not too worrying, as rising equity prices probably boosted net wealth in the first quarter. But with equity prices now moving sideways and house prices once again falling as fast as they were at the height of the financial crisis, households may not be able to run down their saving rate much further.

"So unless real incomes rebound sharply, which we believe is unlikely, real consumption growth will remain subdued. Indeed, the 0.1 percent m/m increase in real spending in April (0.4 percent m/m in nominal terms) suggests spending will have to bounce back in both May and June just for real consumption growth in the second quarter to match the 2.2 percent seen in the first."

DAVID ADER, HEAD OF GOVERNMENT BOND STRATEGY AT CRT CAPITAL GROUP LL, STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT:

"These figures are more or less as expected though spending was a bit softer than the consensus call and comes off a 0.1 percent downward revision to March (now at 0.5 percent). We had a hint of the latter with Q1 GDP yesterday, though we didn't know the spending weakness was 'backloaded' a bit. The gain in wages at 0.4 percent was not bad at all.

"The bond market edged off a bit though was slightly weaker even in advance. We don't think much of that (was about the data). Perhaps it's a hint we need more dire numbers to do better? Rather chalk (the lower bond prices and higher yields) up to some profit taking."

SIREEN HARAJLI, ECONOMIST, CREDIT AGRICOLE CORPORATE & INVESTMENT BANK, NEW YORK:

"The April spending number is exactly in line with our expectations and the downward revisions of the previous months are not surprising due to higher energy prices eroding consumers' spending power."

"We do expect a slowdown in consumer spending in May and the rest of the second quarter. But we expect this to be temporary. It will pick up again due to improvements in the labor market in the second half."

"On the inflation front, the core PCE measure came within expectations. It's still within the Fed's comfort zone. The energy prices appear transitionary and have not made their way across the economy. The Fed will not be in a rush in hike rates."

PIERRE ELLIS, SENIOR GLOBAL ECONOMIST, DECISION ECONOMICS INC., NEW YORK:

"After yesterday's GDP revisions, this shows that the trend in the second quarter is weaker than what people had thought. Spending is flat. This promotes caution about projecting faster growth in the second quarter. Spending is not being supported by income growth.

It's good news that you are not seeing deflation despite the low rate of capacity utilization and high employment. This is reassuring for the dovish members of the Fed, but for the hawks, this reinforces the message you have to be watchful on inflation expectations, which remain stable for now."

VIMOMBI NSHOM, ECONOMIST, IFR ECONOMICS, A UNIT OF THOMSON REUTERS:

"Income's components (supported more by wages than March had been), especially when added to analysis of prices (PCE up 0.3 percent, up 0.2 percent excluding food and energy), give the implication that Q2 is off to a good start."

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