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Monday April 21, 2008 - 16:44:10 GMT
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Midday News Recap: Chicago Fed Activity Report Signals U.S. Likely in Recession

12:21 04/21 (CEP News) – On this light day of North American economic data releases, the Chicago Fed National Activity index signalled a recession has likely begun in the U.S. In Canada, international securities transactions were released and oil continued its surge to a new record high.

Canadian investors increased their holdings of foreign securities by $6.1 billion in February over the previous month, Statistics Canada reported Monday. Canadian investors bought $2.6 billion of foreign bonds in February, with $2.4 billion of the total in U.S. government bonds, and added $3.8 billion in foreign stocks, $2.9 billion of which were in U.S. shares.

The February results marked a sharp turnaround from the prior month, when Canadians dumped more than $2.3 billion in foreign stocks and rang up total net investment in foreign securities of only $232 million

The only significant U.S. data released today was the Chicago Fed National Activity Index for March, which moved up to -0.78 and signalled that a recession is likely underway in the U.S. The February reading was revised to -1.28 in February from a previously reported -1.04. Despite the improvement, the three-month average indicates that a recession has likely begun, the Chicago Fed Bank report said on Monday.

The three-month moving average increased to -0.86 in March from the previous month's -0.92, marking the fourth consecutive month the three-month average has been near or below the -0.70 threshold. A value below -0.70 following a period of expansion indicates an increasing likelihood that a recession has begun, the report added.

Millan Mulraine, economics strategist from TD Securities, said, "Overall, although there was a slight improvement, the report adds to the slew of other economic indicators suggesting that the U.S. economy may have slipped into a recession in the first quarter of this year."

Royal Dutch Shell said it will temporarily stop exports from a port in Nigeria following a pipeline attack last week. The UK company announced it will interrupt exports beginning April 22 after announcing force majeure. The move affects 169k barrels a day of crude exports for the remainder of April and May.

The Federal Reserve Bank announced a Term Auction Facility for Monday. It will offer $50 billion in 28-day credit with a minimum bid rate of 2.05%. The minimum bid amount will be $5 million with a $5 billion maximum bid per institution. Submissions will be accepted between 11:00 a.m. EDT and 1:00 p.m. EDT.

Speaking at a news conference in Paris, Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer said that lower interest rates in the U.S. could adversely affect the French central bank’s revenue for 2008 as the U.S. dollar remains a main element in the central bank’s forex reserves. Earlier in the day, the Bank of France reported €2,317 billion in net profits in 2007, the highest in 35 years, due to increases in investment returns and spending controls.

Speaking at the Austrian National Bank in Vienna on Monday, European Central Bank Governing Council member Klaus Liebscher said that while risks to growth are predominant and are greater due to the financial market developments, there was no room for interest rate cuts. Liebscher, also the governor of the Austrian National Bank, said current inflation figures were concerning and urged reasonable price setting and wage negotiations.

The first major earnings report of the week was a set of disappointing figures from the Bank of America. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expected first-quarter profits of 41 cents per share but the banking giant earned only 25 cents. The company announced writedowns of $6.01 billion and CEO Kenneth Lewis said second-quarter U.S. GDP growth will be "minimal at best."

In overnight news, the Bank of England said a plan to allow UK banks to swap mortgage-backed assets for government bonds is in the pipeline. The central bank said the preliminary size of the plan is likely to be around £50 billion, with an asset swap permitted for a period of one year, which may be renewed for a total of three years.

Year-over-year UK house prices increased by only 1.3% in April following a 5.0% gain in March, as gauged by Rightmove. The property website noted that the drop indicated sellers were recognizing that a decade of rising UK house prices had come to an end.

In Australia, inflation pressures reemerged following a strong report on producer prices. The first-quarter producer price index gained 1.9% against expectations of a 1.0% increase.

By Stephen Huebl, [email protected], with contributions from Adam Button, [email protected], Ryan Szporer, [email protected], Todd Wailoo, [email protected], Patrick McGee, [email protected] and Geoff Matthews, [email protected], edited by Nancy Girgis, [email protected]

(END) ©CEP Newswires - ©CEP News Ltd. 2008. All Rights Reserved.


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