Monday, November 16, 2015
UK inflation to remain negative; Investors flee precious metals; Maternal mortality cut by nearly half in 25 years
1 UK inflation to remain negative (Katie Allen in The Guardian) The UK’s inflation rate is expected to have remained in negative territory when official figures are released on Tuesday, leaving the Bank of England in little hurry to start raising interest rates.
Economists expect data for October to show the inflation rate as measured by the consumer prices index (CPI) held at -0.1%, according to the consensus in a Reuters poll. Inflation has been at or close to zero for most of this year and first dipped into negative territory in April when prices fell for the first time in more than 50 years.
The rate has been pulled down sharply by a combination of tumbling global commodity prices, from oil to food, and the effects of a strong pound, which makes imports cheaper. While some have described low inflation as a sign of economic fragility, it relieves the pressure on household budgets after several years of wages falling in real terms following the financial crisis.
For the Bank, low inflation has meant there is little immediate pressure to increase borrowing costs from their record low. The Bank is set an inflation target of 2% by the government, but the rate has been below that since the start of 2014. The Bank says it expects inflation to stay close to zero for the rest of this year and rise only slowly next year. In the UK, interest rates have been at the record low of 0.5% for more than six years.
2 Investors flee precious metals (Gulf News) Investors are back to dumping precious metals as gold trades near five-year lows and banks including Barclays Plc forecast more price declines. Outflows from US exchange-traded funds backed by precious metals have reached $1.12 billion so far in November, heading for the first monthly loss since July.
Gold prices have fallen for four straight weeks as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signalled that officials are getting closer to raising US interest rates, cutting bullion’s appeal as a store of value.
Until a few weeks ago, investors had poured money into precious-metal ETFs for three months, the longest stretch since 2012. Bulls were anticipating that slowing global economies, especially in China, would deter Fed policymakers from raising rates.
“The situation reversed with the strong jobs report and some little hawkish statements from Yellen,” said Donald Selkin, who helps manage about $3 billion as chief market strategist at National Securities Corp. in New York. “The dollar’s getting stronger because of the anticipation that the Fed might make a move next month. Since gold is priced in dollars, it’s negative. Prices have dropped tremendously. That’s a result of people pulling money out.”
Bullion is heading for a third straight annual decline, the longest slump since 1998. Gold loses out when monetary policy tightens because the metal doesn’t offer interest or pay dividends, unlike competing assets.
Other precious metals are also suffering. Platinum futures in New York fell for 12 straight sessions through Friday, the longest slump since 2002. Palladium prices tumbled 12 per cent last week, the biggest drop since 2011. The metal’s 60-day historical volatility last week reached the highest since February 2012. Silver has dropped for four consecutive weeks.
3 Maternal mortality cut by nearly half in 25 years (Johannesburg Times) Deaths of women from pregnancy-related causes have fallen by almost half across the world in the past quarter century, but only nine countries have achieved the targets set by the UN, a report by UN agencies and the World Bank said.
"This report will show that by the end of 2015 maternal mortality will have dropped by 44% from its levels from 1990," said Dr Lale Say, coordinator for reproductive health and research at the World Health Organization. "This is huge progress but the progress is uneven across countries, across different regions of the world," with 99% of the deaths in developing countries, she said.
The report said that in 2015 some 303,000 women died as a result of complications during pregnancy or up to six weeks after giving birth, down from 532,000 in 1990. "This equates to an estimated global ratio of 216 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 385 in 1990," it said.
As part of the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000, UN member states pledged to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by 2015 from 1990 levels. But only nine countries have achieved this target, although 39 others have registered "significant progress" in reducing maternal deaths, said Say.
The greatest improvement was in eastern Asia, where the maternal mortality ratio fell from approximately 95 to 27 per 100,000 live births. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for two out of every three deaths in the world. The UN has now set a goal of reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.