Economic progress remains slow, yet steady

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Last year, news networks throughout the world focused on Asia Pacific’s recovery from a variety of storms – floods, earthquakes, and typhoons – that not only destroyed homes and businesses, but also interrupted the region’s economic progress from 2008’s global recession.More than one year after the region’s devastating natural disasters transpired, is Asia Pacific’s economic forecast any brighter today than it was then? Has employment increased throughout the region? Is business and consumer confidence rising? And, is there any indication that annual inflation is declining?

For answers to such questions, the following article features information concerning regional employment, trade, inflation, and monetary policy.

Australia:
For the first month since March, Australia’s national unemployment rate declined on a month-to-month basis in July, falling from 5.3 percent in June to 5.2 percent. Despite the decrease, the nation’s labor force participation rate also diminished last month, dropping to 65.2 percent, the third consecutive month in which the rate has deteriorated. Nonetheless, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest employment figures were not entirely disappointing as 14,000 new jobs were added to the national economy in July. In all, 11.5 million Australians were employed last month, while 635,000 residents were still searching for full-time or part-time employment opportunities. Since January, approximately 50,000 new jobs have been generated.

China:
According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the nation’s total industrial production rose by 9.2 percent from July 2011 to July 2012, the lowest year-to-year increase recorded since May 2009. The bureau also found that light industry production growth was slower in July than it had been throughout the first half of 2012; from July 2011 to July 2012, the industry reported production growth of 8.8 percent. Yet, at 10.1 percent, year-to-year heavy industry production growth rose to its highest level since April. In addition, motor vehicle and electricity production growth continued to augment, rising by 12.3 and 2.1 percent, respectively, from July 2011 to July 2012.

South Korea:
In early August the Korean Statistical Information Service released the nation’s latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures. According to the data, South Korea’s CPI rose by 1.5 percent from July 2011 to July 2012, the lowest increase recorded this year. Prior to the release of July’s CPI statistics, a majority of economists had projected that annual inflation would uptick by roughly two to 2.3 percent last month, in line with June’s year-to-year CPI increase of 2.2 percent. Since January, national inflation has steadily dropped; back then, the country’s CPI was measured at 3.4 percent. The downward trend is currently anticipated to continue throughout the remainder of 2012.

Taiwan:
For the third month in 2012, Taiwan’s monthly trade balance contracted on a month-to-month basis in July, falling from a surplus of $2.6 billion in June to a surplus of $900 million. The nation’s latest trade figures were well below economists’ anticipations; most financial experts had projected the national trade balance would actually rise last month, up to a surplus of at least $2.9 billion. However, year-to-year exportation growth depreciated in July, dropping by 11.6 percent; the decrease led to a considerable decline in the country’s trade balance. Meanwhile, importation growth also fell from July 2011 to July 2012, dropping by 3.2 percent. The year-to-year decline was not as severe in July as it was in June though; back in June, importation growth weakened by 8.4 percent.

Thailand:
For the seventh consecutive month, the Bank of Thailand retained the nation’s monetary policy rate at three percent. The rate has now been within range of the Bank’s policy target of 0.5 to three percent since January. Back in December, the rate was measured at 3.25 percent; in October, the rate had been as high as 3.50 percent. In spite of the Bank’s policy rate decreases last November and this January, a majority of economists believe the rate will remain unchanged until 2013.

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