China: Stronger Q4 GDP
Latest official data show Q4 2012 GDP growth picked up to +7.9% y/y (+7.4% in Q3) taking full year 2012 growth to +7.8% and ending seven consecutive quarters of decelerating y/y growth. Official data put q/q expansion at +2% in Q4 (+2.1% in Q3). While investment accounted for more of the 2012 slowdown than consumption, investment is also leading the upturn (infrastructure and real estate in Q4). While the latest data indicate that China has avoided a “hard landing” the pace of the pick up in 2013 is still set to be quite moderate rather than the strong rebound of 2010-11, as expansionary policies will remain cautious. For the time being, EH retains a growth forecast of +8% in 2013, as there are still several headwinds, although the risk to the forecast may be shifting towards the upside.
US: Housing and budgetary issues
Housing market data continue to show strength, with December 2012 starts increasing by +12.1% mo/mo (+37% y/y) and permits—up by only +0.3% mo/mo—by +29% y/y. Supply of existing homes is down to 4.4 months, the lowest since 2005 and this weak supply is likely to be mainly responsible for the fall in existing home sales by -1% mo/mo in December (+13% y/y) and for the rapid 11.5% y/y increase in prices. Meanwhile, House Republicans proposed raising the debt ceiling through to May in order to get more time to negotiate a budget. Nonetheless, automatic budget cuts are still scheduled for 1 March. President Obama’s inauguration speech laid out a long “to-do” list and was thought by many to be a warning to Republicans that entitlement reform on Medicare and Social Security is not on that agenda.
World Economy: IMF forecasts
The IMF’s update to its World Economic Outlook (released 23 January) revises global growth forecasts moderately downward for both 2013 and 2014 (by -0.1pp, to +3.5% and +4.1%, respectively) reflecting weaker than expected performance by the advanced economies (-0.2pp to +1.4% in 2013 and -0.1pp to +2.2% in 2014). In turn, this results from recession in the eurozone in 2013 (-0.2% from +0.1% previously forecast) before a moderate pick-up in 2014 (+1%). Forecasts for the emerging economies remain broadly unchanged at +5.5% in 2013 (-0.1pp compared with October 2012 forecasts) and +5.9% in 2014. The IMF is slightly more optimistic than EH, notably in relation to the advanced economies and partly because it takes account of Japan’s recent stimulus plan. However, the IMF cites elevated downside risks because of the EZ crisis and US fiscal tightening in the ST.
Algeria: Security risk
Domestic security forces adopted a hardline approach in ending the In Amenas gasfield occupation by jihadist rebel extremists with links to al-Qaida and reportedly to criminal activities. In Amenas produces around 6bn cubic metres of gas each year, which equates to 15% of the country’s output and to 2% of Europe’s annual gas imports. Recent events do not help the government of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s attempts to improve relations with oil and gas majors through easing business restrictions or in winning foreign support to implement a USD260 billion investment plan to upgrade infrastructure, education, healthcare and water supply. Nevertheless, Algeria is not a weak economy as it registers strong current account surpluses, its foreign debt obligations are low and FX reserves of around USD190 billion provide import cover of over 36 months. Expect heightened security at hydrocarbon installations, output to return to normal quickly and international oil and gas companies to maintain a presence. However, further sporadic rebel incidents are expected against a background of heightened regional security tensions.
COUNTRIES IN FOCUS
- Mediterranean, Africa & Middle East – Israel: Elections
- Americas – Brazil, Mexico & Chile: Interest rates
- Asia-Pacific – Japan: Monetary policy changes
- Europe – Eurozone: Public debt