Consumer confidence and inflation weakened in October

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In early November, Asia Pacific’s latest economic figures were released to the public just days after typhoon Son-Tinh struck the coasts of China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, leading to millions of dollars in damage. Prior to the release of the data, Asia Pacific was slowly recovering from two other devastating typhoons, Saola and Libra, which occurred this summer, as consumer prices had recently begun to drop, while employment was rising in some nations.

As economists prepare for the future, uncertain whether or not Son-Tinh will stall economic progress, the following figures regarding regional employment, inflation, consumer confidence, foreign trade, and producer prices provide an indication of Asia Pacific’s current economic situation.

Australia:
After a slight increase in September, Australia’s labor force participation rate declined in October, dropping from 65.2 to 65.1 percent. In spite of the decrease, the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.4 percent for the second straight month while employment rose. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 11.5 million Australians were employed in October, an increase of 10,700, when compared to September’s figures. Furthermore, full-time employment augmented last month, rising by 18,700. In all, 8.1 million residents were employed full-time signifying that business confidence may be rising, leading to an increase in full-time employment opportunities.

China:
As anticipated, China’s year-to-year producer prices continued to deflate last month, declining by 2.8 percent from October 2011 to October 2012. Since March, the nation’s producer prices have steadily diminished; in fact, year-to-year prices actually fell by as much as 3.6 and 3.5 percent as recently as September and August, respectively. Fuel, power and raw material prices also remained low in October, contracting by 3.4 and 0.1 percent, respectively, throughout the past 12 months. Nonetheless, the national economy has begun to improve in recent months, leading many economists to believe producer prices will gradually increase in 2013. 

Japan:
For the second consecutive month, Japan’s consumer confidence index weakened in October, falling to 39.7, its lowest level in four months. The decline was not unexpected, as Moody’s Analytics had predicted the index would deteriorate to 39.4 as a result of the nation’s volatile economic situation. Currently, national employment and earnings are below average, as reflected by a decrease in the index’s income growth and employment sub-indices, which fell to eight-month and 12-month lows in October. Since rising slightly in August, the nation’s two other confidence measurements, overall livelihood and willingness to buy durable goods, have also decreased, dropping to 40.1 and 41.8 last month. Unless employment and income begins to uptick, there are presently no signs that consumer livelihood and spending will rise this winter.

South Korea:
Throughout 2012, inflation has remained relatively stable in South Korea, as the national Consumer Price Index (CPI) has ranged from 105.7 in January to 107.0 in September. Such stability continued in October, as the CPI dropped to 106.9, matching some economists’ expectations. According to the Korean Statistical Information Service, annual inflation was also low last month, rising by 2.1 percent from October 2011 to October 2012. Since January, annual inflation has increased by 1.2 to 3.4 percent, providing further evidence that consumer prices have generally been low this year. With national supply and demand presently balanced, many economists believe inflation will continue to linger at a low level throughout the coming months.

Taiwan:
According to Taiwan National Statistics, the nation’s foreign trade balance contracted from $4.08 billion in September to $3.26 billion in October, the first month-to-month drop recorded since July. Many economists had projected the instability of the global economy would have a negative effect on trade, but few had foreseen such a decline in exportation and importation, which fell to $26.52 billion and $23.27 billion, respectively. Trade did not only weaken on a month-to-month basis, however; from October 2011 to October 2012, exportation and importation decreased by 1.9 and 1.8 percent. To compare, exportation and importation figures actually rose from September 2011 to September 2012, increasing by 10.4 and 1.3 percent, respectively. As the fourth quarter draws to a close next month, economists remain optimistic that foreign trade will upsurge in the near future.

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