Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Economics Data Points Overview February housing starts, Jobs statement and EU finance ministers Recap $EWG

• February housing starts were marginally better than expected, in a month when storms probably depressed activity. Housing starts declined 5.9% from an upward-revised January level to 575,000 (consensus 570K, JPMorgan 560K). But the decline was concentrated in the volatile multifamily segments. Single-family starts were only down 0.6% following a 4.4% rise in January. Housing permits are a better trend indicator and they tell a similar story. R Mellman

• import prices declined 0.3% (consensus -0.2%, JPMorgan 0.1%) and the rise in nonfuel prices moderated to a 0.2% increase. Importantly, import prices for finished consumer goods remain tame, with nonauto prices -0.1% in February and 0.0%oya and auto import prices flat and +0.6%oya. R Mellman

• Jobs statement published - Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, White House budget director Peter Orszag and Christina Romer, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a joint statement today that they anticipate the jobless rate to remain elevated for some time going forward and that it may even increase from the current 9.7% due to formally discouraged job seekers returning to the pool of eligible workers.

• European finance ministers meeting recap - As expected, Euro area finance ministers endorsed the first of Greece's progress reports at this week's Ecofin meeting. Under the heightened surveillance that Greece is under, it has to submit regular reports explaining how its deficit objectives will be met, the first of which was due by today. The finance ministers in the rest of the region reaffirmed the commitment to provide financial support to Greece if needed. Apparently, progress has been made on agreeing how this support would be provided, but few details were released. D Mackie.

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