Today’s North American Data Highlights

April 12, 2012

Although the U.S. $46.0 billion goods and services trade deficit in February was at a three month low, the deficit in January-February was still 6.1% wider than in the first two months of 2011.  A deficit with China comprised 39.9% of the total January-February shortfall, and the remaining deficit was split more or less evenly among the Western Hemisphere, OPEC, the EU and Japan. 

The Canadian trade surplus plunged to C$ 292 million in February from C$ 1.945 billion in January.  Energy trade was responsible for 95% of this decline, as energy exports sank 6.9% while energy imports leaped 18.3%.  Canada needs a C$ 895 million surplus in March in order for the 1Q surplus to match the surplus in the final quarter of 2011.

Unlike the U.S. housing market, home prices in Canada continue to post on-year advances, albeit modest ones.  New home prices in February were 2.3% above year-earlier levels after a gain of 2.4% in the year to January.

U.S. producer price pressure is decelerating.  The index was unchanged on month in March following increases of 0.1% in January and 0.4% in February.  PPI inflation dropped from a 4.8% 12-month pace at the end of 2011 to 2.8% last month.  While core PPI ticked down just a tenth percentage point, food and energy price gains from a year earlier decreased respectively by 3.8 and 5.6 percentage points to 2.3% and 2.8%.

New U.S. jobless insurance claims of 380K last week exceeded analyst expectations.  The four-week average level of 368.5K was almost 15K higher than in the previous four weeks to March 10 and a similar amount below the mean in the four weeks between mid-December and mid-January.  New claims are a volatile index from week to week.  So long as they stay below 400K, the jobless rate should remain on a steady to downward trajectory.

Copyright 2012, Larry Greenberg.  All rights reserved.  No secondary distribution without express permission.

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