- Data was uninspiring globally, with the exception of U.S. housing starts and U.K. retail sales. Reports in the U.S. remained generally disappointing, as its economy has yet to rebound strongly from a weak first quarter. In the U.K., inflation pressures were subdued but mostly positive, partially easing concerns about deflation risks.
- Housing-market reports were mixed. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, housing starts and permits were well ahead of expectations in April. However, the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index signaled slower-than expected growth in new housing for the month. Existing-home sales slowed from March.
- Consumer prices fell overall in April, yet rose faster than anticipated when excluding food and energy. A continued acceleration would increase the likelihood of an interest-rate hike by the Federal Reserve (Fed).
- The number of jobless claims remained relatively small in the week ending May 16, while the four-week moving average dropped to the lowest level in 15 years. Among the civilian labor force, claims hit a record low.
- Initial estimates of U.S. manufacturing activity disappointed expectations, but pointed to continued (albeit slower) growth. The Philadelphia Fed’s Mid-Atlantic manufacturing survey also showed slow growth; although there was some improvement in new orders.
- The Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index improved, but remained in negative territory during April. Unlike April 2014, the U.S. economy had yet to rebound from a slow first quarter.
- In the U.K., retail sales grew by more than anticipated in April, yet industrial production contracted unexpectedly in May.
- Consumer price inflation in the U.K. remained subdued during April, falling slightly below forecasts. Producer prices rose at a slower-than-projected pace during the month, but were still higher than in March; they declined in the year over year.
- Initial estimates of eurozone manufacturing- and service-sector activity indicated continued improvement during May. Services in France and Germany grew more slowly than predicted, as did German manufacturing. French manufacturing contracted mildly but exceeded expectations.
- Preliminary estimates showed that consumer confidence in the European Union worsened in May.
- Eurozone consumer prices continued to stabilize in April; they were flat compared to a year ago and up slightly from March.
- Japan’s economic growth continued to accelerate in the first quarter, despite a challenging March for most of the country’s industries. Its manufacturing sector returned to moderate growth in May.
- China’s manufacturing sector remained in mild contraction territory during May, according to preliminary estimates.
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