July 6, 2020

New Jobless Claims Drop, Partly for Seasonal Reasons

The drop left unemployment benefit applications at the lowest level in 10 weeks, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Some of the decline may have been caused by seasonal factors.

Still, the broader trend has been favorable. The four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations, fell 5,250, to 351,000.

“We believe labor market conditions remain on a gradually improving trajectory,” said Laura Rosner, an economist at BNP Paribas.

Weekly applications data can be volatile in July. Automakers typically shut their factories in the first two weeks of the month to prepare for new models, which leads to a temporary spike in layoffs. But this year, much of the industry has skipped or shortened the shutdowns to keep up with stronger demand.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have declined 5 percent since January. The drop has coincided with stronger job growth.

Employers added an average of 202,000 jobs a month through the first six months of the year, up from an average of 180,000 in the previous six months. In June, they added 195,000 jobs.

More than 4.5 million people received unemployment aid in the week ending June 29, the latest data available. That’s down just 1,900 from the previous week. The number of recipients has fallen 21 percent in the last year.

Separately, the Conference Board, a business research group, said on Thursday that its index of leading indicators remained unchanged at 95.3 in June, pointing to modest growth in the coming months. The flat reading followed increases of 0.2 percent in May and 0.8 percent in April.

The longer-term trend has been positive. The index increased 1.7 percent in the first six months of this year. That’s better than the 1.1 percent rise in the previous six months.

The trend “suggests that the economy should continue to experience at least modest growth over the next six to nine months,” Maninder Sibia, an economist at the Economic Advisory Service, said in a note to clients.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/19/business/economy/new-jobless-claims-drop-partly-for-seasonal-reasons.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Raw Data: Deciphering the Decline in Spanish Mobile Accounts

BERLIN — It would take the unimaginable — a major power outage, a natural disaster or a sudden, permanent loss of income — for many people to abandon their mobile phones.

That is what appears to be happening in Spain in the midst of its economic crisis. But in the country’s telecom sector, as in a Salvador Dalí painting, there may be more than meets the eye.

The Spanish regulator, Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones, said last week that 486,183 mobile phone accounts were deactivated by Spanish operators in October alone, the ninth straight month of contraction that has seen two million prepaid accounts, or 9.4 percent of the current total, taken off networks since February.

The biggest reason for the industry’s difficulties is the most obvious: Spain’s economic slowdown, highlighted by its 26.2 percent unemployment rate in October, including a jobless rate of nearly 50 percent among cellphone-conscious young consumers.

Rosalind Craven, who analyzes West European mobile operators at International Data Corp. in London, said the nine months of contracting figures reported by Telefónica’s Movistar and Vodafone Spain, the two largest mobile operators, reflected the economic challenges facing consumers.

“Because it has been going on for so long, this indicates that the reason is indeed the country’s economic distress,” she said. “People in Spain have less money and are looking to save where they can.”

From January through October, Movistar, the market leader, has deactivated 2.3 million mobile accounts. Vodafone Spain, the No.2, shut off 1.3 million accounts, according to the telecommunications commission. Conversely, Orange Spain, the No.3, has gained 124,420 customers and Yoigo, owned by TeliaSonera of Sweden, has added 412,580. Virtual operators, which are low-cost resellers, have added 1.1 million customers.

But three other developments unrelated to Spain’s slowing economy may be exaggerating signs of a telecom sector meltdown.

The first was the decision by Movistar and Vodafone this year to stop subsidizing new handsets. The cost-cutting move caused many customers to switch to Orange, Yoigo and virtual operators like Simyo, which continued to provide subsidies. Both Movistar and Vodafone have since partially reinstated subsidies.

The other influence was a decision by Telefónica and Vodafone to focus on their most lucrative clients — contract customers who pay on average about €25, or $33, each month, more than double what prepaid customers pay. Telefónica, for example, has signed up one million customers since October to a new plan called Movistar Fusión, a package of mobile, fixed and Internet flat-rate service starting at €49.99 a month.

A third, less obvious reason, may be the counting methods used by the operators, which during economic downturns have been known to purge inactive accounts more aggressively from subscriber lists. Such cullings bolster the average monthly revenue per user, the main bellwether used by investors to value operators.

Representatives for Telefónica and Vodafone declined to say if they were aggressively purging their lists. Ms. Craven, the I.D.C. analyst, said operators in Greece conducted a mass purge in 2009 as that country’s economic crisis began to worsen.

Operators generally declare accounts to be inactive when they are unused for three or six months. In good economic times, bigger customer rolls help operators claim greater market share. In bad times, the bigger lists dilute scarce earnings.

Spaniards do not appear to be abandoning their “móviles.” Cellphone penetration in Spain was 116 percent in October, and many people carry more than one SIM card. The inactive accounts being shut down, said Agustín Diaz-Pinés, an analyst at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, are likely to be extra SIM accounts.

“Undoubtedly the economic downturn plays a role here, but I don’t think many people are dropping their mobile subscriptions,” he said. “They may rather be canceling duplications, for example, the prepaid line you never use.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/technology/deciphering-the-decline-in-spanish-mobile-accounts.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Euro Watch: German Growth Report Provides Glimmer of Hope for Euro Zone

PARIS — A report Friday provided Europe with the faintest glimmer of hope, suggesting the German economy was growing again, but analysts played down the possibility of any imminent exit from the morass in which the bloc has found itself.

A broad survey of euro zone purchasing managers by Markit Economics, a data and analysis firm, showed activity in December reached its highest level in nine months, at 47.3, from 46.5 in November. Economists had been expecting a level of about 46.9.

While an improvement, a level below 50.0 still signals contraction.

Germany’s output rose in December for the first time in eight months, the data showed, though only modestly, and output continued to fall in France.

Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief economist, said the data suggested that the euro zone output might have reached bottom in October. Still, he said the data were consistent with expectations that G.D.P. would contract again in the final quarter of the year.

The purchasing managers data gives economists early clues to movements in the business cycle, and is fairly well correlated with G.D.P. over time.

Purchasing managers subindexes, covering the manufacturing and services sectors, also showed the rate of decline slowing, though demand for new business continued to fall, Markit said, “indicating that companies continued to face steeply deteriorating demand for goods and services.”

The euro zone economy contracted by 0.1 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter, after a second-quarter decline of 0.2 percent.

The economy has been hurt by weak global growth, as well as the budget cutting measures regarded as critical to winning the trust of financial markets.

The cost of those measures is visible in the labor market: Eurostat, the statistical agency of the European Union, reported Friday that the number of employed people in the euro zone declined by 0.2 percent in the third quarter from the second quarter and by 0.7 percent from the third quarter of 2011. Most sectors of the economy suffered, with a 1.5 percent decline in the construction sector dragging most heavily on employment.

Eurostat said last month that the unemployment rate in the euro zone hit to a record 11.7 percent in October.

Ben May, an economist in London with Capital Economics, predicted that euro zone G.D.P. would slide by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, or about 1.2 percent on an annualized basis. Further, he noted, “a quarterly fall in GDP of 0.5 percent or more is not out of the question.”

Holger Schmieding, chief European economist at Berenberg Bank in London, predicted that euro zone would begin to rise from recession in the spring, helped by the determination of the European Central Bank to use “all necessary means“ to defend the euro, “rock-bottom“ interest rates and less pressure on governments to enact painful austerity measures.

Separately, an inflation report Friday showed subdued price pressures in the euro zone. Euro zone prices rose 2.2 percent in November from a year earlier, slowing from a 2.5 percent rise in October, Eurostat said. On a monthly basis, prices fell 0.2 percent in November from October.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/business/global/daily-euro-zone-watch.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Syrians Say They Are Feeling Grip of Economic Sanctions

The owner of a handicrafts business who this week tried to transfer $450 to the Lebanese bank account of one of her suppliers found the transaction rejected because it originated in Syria. She had to hand-deliver the cash instead. Then a client, an investor for whom she is designing furniture for a new Abu Dhabi hotel, asked her to export whatever was completed immediately, lest the entire shipment get stuck.

“This is not the solution” to end the crisis in Syria, said the woman, pulling her fashionable black wool coat tighter against the sudden winter chill hitting this superficially calm but beleaguered capital. “This is a way to make us starve to punish the president.”

Nearly nine months after a sustained popular uprising erupted against the Assad government, Syria finds itself increasingly isolated, with even onetime allies condemning its use of lethal force. Turkey, the Arab League, the European Union and the United States have all imposed economic sanctions.

The measures are already biting, in ways evident to a reporter during a brief, rare visit allowed by the government, which was seeking to draw attention to its claim that the Arab League sanctions in particular amounted to an “economic war” against Syria.

The crucial question for Mr. Assad, the international community and the tens of thousands who rose up against the government, is whether such financial pain will induce the leadership to halt the violent suppression of antigovernment protests.

The sanctions are already unraveling the most significant change of Mr. Assad’s tenure: linking Syria to the global economy, allowing private banks and opening economic opportunity for young people in nation where about three-quarters of the population is under the age of 35.

Optimists think the pressure could work, largely because the biggest tycoons are close to the president, especially his cousin, Rami Makhlouf, and some dozen sons of his father’s closest allies. (Mr. Makhlouf gobbled up so many state enterprises put up for sale that Syrians wryly dubbed the privatization process “Ramification.”)

Pessimists worry that the government, including the scions of the old guard, will let the economy sink further to cling to power.

“Up until the last minute, I did not believe the Arab League would take such a decision,” said Mohammed Ghassan al-Qallaa, the president of the Damascus Chamber of Commerce, his office filled with Assad paraphernalia, including a small gold bust of Mr. Assad’s father, former President Hafez al-Assad. “It was like a poke in the eye.”

Good statistics remain a rarity here. But trade and investment activity is already off by 50 percent, financial analysts in Damascus said, and estimates on how much the economy will shrink this year range from 12 to 20 percent. The higher estimates kick in if sanctions — like a flight ban still being debated by the Arab League — are toughened.

Layoffs are rampant, with unemployment estimated to have risen to 22 percent. The tourism sector, which amassed about $6 billion in 2010, a boom year, has been decimated.

Hotel managers report occupancy rates of 15 percent or lower, if they will divulge them at all, and numerous restaurants have gone broke. Financial analysts said the luxury Four Seasons chain tried to close its once-booming Damascus hotel, an effort rejected by the government, which owns an estimated 50 percent share.

Sven Wiedenhaupt, the hotel’s general manager, refused to divulge his occupancy figures or how many staff members had been laid off. But he silently cast his head first left, then right to emphasize the absence of anyone in the cavernous, distinctly chilly lobby. “We are still keeping the lights on and trying to remain cutting edge,” Mr. Wiedenhaupt said.

At one hotel in the northern city of Aleppo, the appearance of two German tourists proved so startling that the entire staff, from the manager to the chambermaids, rushed to pose for pictures with them. “It was like they had arrived from another planet,” said a Syrian woman who witnessed the scene and, like others interviewed, requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/03/world/middleeast/syrians-say-they-are-feeling-grip-of-economic-sanctions.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Spending Fell and Income Barely Rose in June

WASHINGTON — Americans cut back on spending in June for the first time in nearly two years, and their incomes grew by the smallest amount in nine months, troubling signs in a barely growing economy.

The Commerce Department said in a report released on Tuesday that consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in June. Some of the decline was caused by declining food and energy prices, which had spiked in recent months. When excluding those items, consumer spending was flat.

Income rose 0.1 percent, the weakest showing since September, reflecting anemic hiring this spring, while the personal savings rate rose to 5.4 percent of after-tax incomes, the highest level since August 2010.

The data highlighted that consumer spending weakened during the April-June quarter, which could mean the sluggish economy is worsening. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of domestic economic activity.

“The recent run of weak economic news has made us more concerned that any rebound will be more modest than previously looked likely,” said Paul Dales, senior United States economist at Capital Economics.

High gas prices and unemployment have squeezed household budgets this spring, leading to tepid overall economic growth in the April-June quarter. The economy expanded at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the second quarter after only 0.4 percent growth in the first three months of the year. The combined growth for the first six months was the worst since the recession ended two years ago.

Many Americans are cutting back on purchases of cars, furniture, appliances and electronics. Employers have responded by reducing hiring. The economy added just 18,000 net jobs in June, the fewest in nine months. The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the highest level this year.

The government is to issue its employment report for July on Friday.

The biggest drop in spending occurred in items like food and gasoline. Spending on such non-durable goods fell 5.5 percent, reflecting price declines after increases early this year. An inflation gauge tied to consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in June, the biggest one-month decline since September 2009. Outside of food and energy, prices were up 0.1 percent.

Still, spending on durable goods, such as autos, also fell in June 1.1 percent. One reason for the decline may be the shortage of popular car models in showrooms. Supply chain disruptions caused by the March earthquake in Japan have limited production of auto and electronic parts.

Declining growth and rising unemployment have raised concerns that the country could fall back into a recession.

Many analysts were still hopeful that growth will rebound in the second half of the year, but the timing of any turnaround is hard to gauge. Manufacturers had their weakest growth in two years in July, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

And gasoline prices remain high, even after coming down from a peak of nearly $4 a gallon in early May. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.70 on Tuesday — 14 cents higher than a month ago and almost a dollar more than in the same month last year.

Some economists have begun to trim their forecasts for the second half of the year. Capital Economics said it had cut its outlook for second-half growth to 2 percent from a previous forecast of 2.5 percent.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=79baaef74d8b25140683d67f31ea6b3e

Hiring and Manufacturing Remain in a Summer Slump

Layoffs are rising. Manufacturing activity in the Northeast expanded only slightly in July after contracting in June. Economic growth is projected to pick up this fall, but not enough to give businesses sufficient confidence to hire and speed the recovery.

Economists are forecasting a third straight month of feeble hiring in July, based on the latest round of data. Expectations are the economy added in the range of 50,000 to 100,000 net new jobs this month.

That is not enough to keep up with population growth and far below what is needed to lower the unemployment rate, which was 9.2 percent last month.

“We’re going to see improvement, but right now nothing’s improved yet,” said Joshua Dennerlein, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose last week to a seasonally adjusted 418,000, the Labor Department said. They have now topped 400,000 for 15 straight weeks. Applications had fallen in February to 375,000, a level that signals healthy job growth.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its manufacturing index rose to 3.2 in July, a sign that the sector was growing again. It contracted in June for the first time in nine months. The index dropped to negative 7.7, the lowest level in two years. Any figure below zero indicates contraction.

The index topped 40 in March. The lower reading illustrates what analysts said was the impact of a parts shortage caused by the Japanese earthquake, which has affected many automakers and electronics producers. Still, manufacturers expressed some hope in the latest survey, saying they expect orders and shipments to pick up significantly six months from now.

The Conference Board projected modest growth for the broader economy in the coming months based on its latest reading of leading economic indicators. The index rose in June for the second straight month. It declined in April, the first time that had happened in nearly a year.

The private research group offered a caveat: Federal lawmakers must agree to raise the government’s borrowing limit and avoid a default on the debt.

The federal government has reached its borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion, and the Obama administration says the government will not be able to pay all its bills if the cap is not raised by Aug. 2.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=cb328e00385bf0639d88377351f49b3b