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Jobless Claims Exceed Expectations, US Home Sales Decline, UK Consumer Confidence Rises

Shemesh Shahar
Latest News
April 21 2023 12:02AM

Jobless Claims Exceed Expectations

The US labour department reported 245,000 new initial jobless claims in the week ending April 15, which exceeded economists’ expectations of 240,000 claims. This was an increase in the pace of new claims, led by California, New York, Massachusetts and Texas, based on preliminary figures not adjusted for seasonal changes.

US Home Sales Decline

Sales of existing homes in the US fell by 2.4% in March, marking the 13th time in 14 months that sales have slowed. The National Association of Realtors reported that March sales fell 22% from a year earlier, as higher mortgage rates cooled the momentum from February’s unexpectedly strong sales.

UK Consumer Confidence Rises

UK consumer confidence increased in April, with the consumer confidence index issued by market researcher GfK rising six points to minus 30. The forecast for the general economic situation increased eight points to minus 13, and the personal finance forecast rose five points to minus 21, indicating early signs of economic recovery.

China’s GDP Growth Forecasted

Nomura International Ltd. and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) raised their forecasts for China’s economic growth in 2023. This follows official figures showing that China’s GDP grew by 4.5% YoY in Q1 2023, exceeding expectations, with a rebounding property market and increased consumer spending. Nomura now predicts GDP will expand 5.9%, while Bank of America projects 6.3%.

Swedish Housing Prices Decrease

Swedish real estate agents expect housing prices to continue declining, according to a quarterly survey by state-owned lender SBAB. The survey shows that 32% of respondents believe apartment prices will fall in Q2 2023, compared to 28% three months earlier. The survey also predicts an increase in supply but not matched by a similar rise in demand.

Fleeing Fighting in Sudan

The UN’s refugee agency reports that between 10,000 and 20,000 people have fled fighting in Sudan for neighbouring Chad. At least 300 civilians have been killed and 2,600 injured in the six days of conflict. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military commander and de facto leader, said there was “no room for talks” with the opposition Rapid Support Forces militia.

China Developing Cyber Weapons

The US intelligence community has leaked reports suggesting that China is developing cyber weapons to take control of enemy satellites during wartime. The CIA-marked document, issued this year, was part of the US’s significant intelligence disclosures, indicating that China’s efforts to control information by developing capabilities to “deny, exploit or hijack” enemy satellites are a core part of its war-fighting strategy.

EU Countries Tighten Honey Regulations

EU countries are pushing back against syrup-laced honey from China and other exporters flooding the bloc’s honey market, driving down prices. A European Commission study found almost half of the honeys surveyed contained sugar syrups, colourings, and water, in breach of EU rules. Twenty member states, led by Slovenia, are seeking to tighten regulations against “honey laundering”.

China Releases Fewer US Titles

Chinese publishing houses released fewer US-themed titles in 2022, with official data revealing that the number of such titles dropped more than half from 2018. This decline occurred as the Chinese Communist party’s central propaganda department suspended or delayed approval of popular American authors, including Michael Lewis, whose book The Premonition: A Pandemic Story failed to find a publisher in China.

US Pledges $1bn Climate Funding

US President Joe Biden announced $1bn in new funding to help developing countries cope with climate change. The pledge was made during the Major Economies Forum on energy and climate, urging development banks to increase their lending. Biden’s announcement plans to contribute the money to the UN-led Green Climate Fund, which supports clean energy and climate resilience projects in developing countries.

Russia Turns to Petrostates

As a result of Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, Russia has turned to the oil-rich petrostates of the Persian Gulf for trade partners. Despite objections from the US, state companies from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are taking advantage of discounted prices for Russian energy products, using them internally for consumption and refining, as well as exporting their own barrels at market rates, thus boosting their profits.