Unemployment in the United Kingdom fell to the lowest level since April 2009, China's economy cooled and U.S. sales of existing homes last year were the strongest since 2006, economic reports are projected to show this week. Elsewhere, price data will dominate, with Brazil likely to show consumer inflation in the month through mid-January rising by the most in a year, while pricing power in Australia also picked up in the fourth quarter.
U.K. labor market
• Britain’s strengthening economy is fueling speculation the Bank of England will be forced to change its forward guidance policy next month as unemployment falls faster than forecast toward the 7 percent threshold that will prompt a policy review. Data on Jan. 22 will show unemployment fell to 7.3 percent in the three months through November, according to the median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg survey. The same day, the BOE will publish minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee’s January meeting, which may show how the labor-market developments are shaping their debate.
• “The jobless rate is likely to hit the MPC’s 7 percent threshold soon,” said Michael Saunders and Ann O’Kelly, economists at Citigroup Inc. in London. “We expect that, at the February meeting or soon after, the MPC will adopt Fed-style language that they do not currently intend to hike rates ‘for some time,’ without defining how long they mean.”
• “A change in the MPC’s forward guidance is coming,” said Ross Walker, an economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London. “The question is not if, but when,” he said. “It is not only the faster-than-expected fall in unemployment that the MPC needs to consider. Inflation has also experienced a more acute decline.”
• China’s industrial-production gains slowed to a five-month low of 9.8 percent and its gross domestic product rose 7.6 percent from a year earlier in the October-December period, based on the median estimates of analysts before data due Jan. 20. The expansion in the world’s second-largest economy will moderate to 7.4 percent this year as investment slows and overcapacity is squeezed, according to a survey last month.
• “We’ve been of the view for quite some time that slowing GDP growth does not imply shrinking demand for bulk commodities,” said Annette Beacher, head of Asia-Pacific research in Singapore at TD Securities. “Slowing Chinese GDP growth from 12 percent a year to 7.5 percent over the last three years or so contrasts nicely with accelerating imports from Australia — primarily iron ore — over the same timeframe.”
• Sales of previously owned homes eked out a small gain in December to complete the best year since before the last recession, economists forecast a Jan. 23 report to show. The National Association of Realtors estimates 5.1 million existing homes were sold in 2013, the most since 6.48 million properties were purchased in 2006. Higher mortgage rates began to take a toll on the market in the latter part of 2013.
• “Sales were depressed in the fourth quarter in response to a buying frenzy in the third quarter, as potential buyers anticipated higher mortgage rates due to a slowdown in Fed asset purchases,” IHS Global Insight economists Paul Edelstein, Stephanie Karol and Doug Handler wrote in a research report. “But we believe that this was a temporary setback for the housing recovery, and that sales should finally turn up with condo and co-op sales outperforming sales of single-family homes.”
• The revival of the American housing market has ancillary effects on the economy. Rising property values, combined with record stock prices, are driving a “substantial improvement in household wealth and a strong recovery in excess cash positions,” Joe Carson, director of global economic research at AllianceBernstein LP/USA, says in a research report. “We believe these conditions set the stage for consumers to play a bigger role in driving U.S. economic growth this year and beyond.”
• Australia’s inflation probably accelerated last quarter, rising 2.4 percent in the final three months of 2013 from a year earlier, close to the middle of the central bank’s target range of between 2 percent and 3 percent, economists projected before a Jan. 22 report. The Australian dollar slid 4.3 percent in the period, the worst performer among 10 major currencies after the yen, boosting the cost of imports.
• “A lower currency helps economic activity. But it also brings some upside price pressures as well,” said Michael Blythe, chief economist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s largest lender. The Reserve Bank of Australia “cites research concluding that a 10 percent drop in the Trade Weighted Index will increase the year-ended inflation rate by a quarter to half a percentage point over each of the following two years.”
• The national statistics agency’s Jan. 23 IPCA-15 report may show that consumer prices in the month through mid-January rose 0.8 percent, the fastest in 12 months, even as the central bank raises interest rates more than any other economy in the world.
• “Inflation in Brazil has remained persistent,” said Fernando Parmagnani, an economist at Rosenberg Consultores Associados. “This can be observed across different product groups. There are pressures from food and beverages, such as fruit, meat and cereals.”
• Regulated prices this year will rise almost three times faster than in 2013 as the government allows the cost of goods and services such as electricity and bus fares to rise, said Daniel Weeks, chief economist at Garde Asset Management in Sao Paulo. “We will probably see regulated prices deteriorate headline inflation.”