Financial Markets…The 5-year borrowing costs for U.S. government debt fell to the lowest level since November at an auction today as concerns over global growth and signs of continued central banks’ assistance boosted demand for safe-have assets. The U.S. Treasury sold $35 billion of 5-year notes at a yield of 0.710, the least since the auction on November 28, with the bid-to-cover ratio of 2.86.
European stocks gained for a fifth day, with the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.3% to extend its weekly gain to 3.6%, as the U.K. GDP data report showed the country avoided a triple-dip recession. Decent Q1 gains in major European companies and growing speculation on further monetary easing by the ECB also supported the region’s shares.
China’s yuan surged to a 19-year high on Thursday, climbing to as high as 6.1707 per dollar, as the People’s Bank of China raised its reference rate by 0.13% to a record high of 6.2300 amid increased global usage of the currency. The yuan usage for global trade and investment rose 32% in March from the previous month.
High-income Economies…Preliminary UK GDP estimates showed that the economy narrowly avoided a triple-dip recession in Q1, expanding by 0.3% (q/q sa) after contracting by the same amount in Q4 last year. The modest rebound was led by services which grew 0.6%. Manufacturing and construction remained weak, contracting by 0.3% and 2.5% respectively.
US labor data show signs of improvement after entering a soft patch around Easter. Initial jobless claims, which had spiked to 451,000 in late March, have since steadily fallen back, reaching 339,000 in the week ending April 20th. This is only slightly above the 5-year low of 334,000 hit in early March. The 4-week moving average dipped to 357,500, a decrease of 4,500 from the previous week, while the 4-week moving average of continuing claims fell to 3,071,750, a decrease of 17,500.
Unemployment rate in Spain set a new record at 27.2% in Q1, up from 26.0% in Q4 2012, reflecting the severity of recession and austerity measures there. The number of unemployed breached the 6 million mark for the first time ever. Public sector firms shed 71,400 jobs between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013 while private sector jobs fell by 251,000.
Developing Economies…East Asia and Pacific: Indonesia’s police have warned against hoarding of gasoline (petrol), whose price is due to rise by 44% next month. The government is attempting to reform fuel subsidies which are costing $2bn last year, increasing oil imports and contributing to the country’s $24bn current account deficit.
Latin America and the Caribbean: Colombia’s long and short-term credit ratings were upgraded by S&P, to BBB (the second investment grade notch) up from BBB-, with a stable outlook. S&P is the first of the three main agencies to put Colombia on the BBB level, which is the rating around which Peru, Mexico and Brazil are generally rated.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Rwanda raised $400mn in its debut dollar bond. The 10-year Eurobond offering is selling at a yield of 6.875%. Rwanda is rated B with a stable outlook, five levels below investment grade and joins other sub-Saharan African nations including Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Gabon, Senegal and Namibia in selling international debt.