Wages slide 0.4 percent
Wages slid for the first time in 13 months in March, underscoring the risk that slumping consumer spending may undermine the recovery from an earthquake and tsunami that left more than 25,000 people dead or missing. Monthly pay, including overtime and bonuses, dropped 0.4 percent from a year earlier to ￥274,886 (US$3,383), the Labor Ministry said yesterday in Tokyo. Overtime work hours fell 2 percent to 10.1 hours, the data showed. The wage data highlighted the economic damage from the March 11 disaster, which caused a record decline in factory output and decreases in retail sales, household spending and consumer confidence.
Manufacturing growth rises
Manufacturing grew at the fastest pace in five months and exports climbed to a record, increasing pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates for the ninth time since the start of last year. The Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 58 last month from 57.9 in March, HSBC Holdings PLC and Markit Economics said in an e-mail yesterday. A number above 50 indicates expansion. Merchandise exports surged 44 percent to a record US$29 billion in March from a year earlier, the commerce ministry said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The Reserve Bank of India may lift its benchmark repurchase rate to 7 percent from 6.75 percent, according to 18 of 25 economists in a Bloomberg News survey ahead of the monetary policy announcement today. The remaining seven, including HSBC Group PLC, predict a 0.5 percentage point move to curb inflation, which is the highest among the so-called BRICS nations after Russia.
House prices fall
House prices in England and Wales fell last month at their fastest annual pace in 18 months and are likely to slip further this year on fears about the economic outlook, Hometrack said yesterday. The property data firm’s monthly survey showed prices were down 3.3 percent last month compared with a year ago, the biggest decline since October 2009, when Britain was emerging from recession. Stronger demand left prices unchanged on the month, ending a nine-month run of falls. However, Hometrack said the pick-up in demand was likely to fade during the rest of the year as public spending cuts, tax rises and waning consumer confidence take their toll.
TNT reports fall in profits
TNT NV, the Dutch mail and global express company, has reported a 14 percent fall in first quarter profits because of high fuel costs and problems at both its major divisions. Net profit was 123 million euros (US$182 million), compared with 143 million euros in the same period a year earlier. However, revenues rose 4.3 percent to 1.11 billion euros on the back of growth at its loss-making international mail delivery arm, which competes in Germany and more recently in Italy. The overall increase masked continued declines at the core Dutch mail arm, which witnessed another 8.6 percent fall during the first three months. Because the domestic business is suffering under competition from the likes of Deutsche Post, TNT is to cut around 11,000 jobs, or a third of its mail service employees. It’s also going to ask shareholders later this month to approve a spin-off of its express arm, which is expected to grow eventually.