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Tuesday April 18, 2006 - 10:32:10 GMT
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Economics Weekly: Consumer price data in the UK and the US feature this week

Consumer price data in the UK and the US feature this week


This week will be dominated by inflation data in the three major markets – the US, the Euro zone and the UK. Although markets are taking fright at upside inflation risks from the surge in commodity prices, hard evidence is yet to present itself that inflation is about to take off. Away from the data, headlines are likely to be dominated by the visit to Washington by Chinese President Hu Jintao and the G7 meeting. The US/China summit is expected to feature the imbalance in bi-lateral trade between both countries as well as discussions to revalue the renminbi. The G7 meeting takes place in Washington on Friday. The agenda includes global imbalances, overhauling international financial institutions, energy prices, terrorism and a debate over how to curtail avian flu.

UK markets are closed for the Easter break on Monday. The key indicator for the week is March CPI inflation on Thursday, which we expect to have increased by 0.5% on the month to an annual rate of 2.1%. The minutes of the 5/6 April Bank of England MPC meeting are due tomorrow. The departure of Richard Lambert last month means the committee may have voted 7-1 to keep rates on hold, with Stephen Nickell casting the only vote for lower rates. As ever, investors will be alert to the detail of the minutes for clues of any shift in the Bank’s bias as it digests the inter-meeting data releases and developments in commodity and asset prices.

US data is more abundant, including key data such as Treasury International Capital Data (TICs), the Fed FOMC minutes, CPI inflation, producer prices and various manufacturing surveys. A busy start to the week is scheduled today with the release of March producer prices and the release of the Fed minutes of the March 28/29 FOMC meeting. Producer prices are forecast to show a rise of 0.4% on the month and 3.4% on the year. The core number is expected to grow by 0.2% on the month and 1.8% on the year – a fairly benign signal for CPI inflation data tomorrow. We expect a CPI rise of 0.3% in the headline rate for the month which should result in a fall in the annual rate to 3.1%. Moreover, excluding food and energy, consumer prices will rise just 0.2% on the month and 2.0% on the year. Also scheduled tomorrow, housing starts may exhibit a decline in March, reflecting a moderation in housing market activity to more sustainable activity levels as mortgage rates rise. On Thursday, the market median forecast for the April Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey is for a strong number, +15. We take a slightly less optimistic view and are forecasting a rise to +13 from +12.3 in March.

In the Eurozone, German producer prices are due on Wednesday and could show a 0.4% rise for March, equivalent to a 5.8% increase on the year. This may add to inflation concerns. However, signs of feed through to CPI are not yet evident. EU-12 CPI is likely to be confirmed at an annual rate of 2.2% for March on Thursday, down a touch from 2.3% in February. This gives support to the ECB view that interest rates may not need to be increased in May, offering time to consider the inflation implications from next month's data before potentially deciding to push rates higher in June.

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