Friday, February 3, 2017

Solid 2017 start for Eurozone economy; US jobs growth surges in January; Anti-corruption stir rocks Romania

1 Solid 2017 start for Eurozone economy (San Francisco Chronicle) The economy of the 19 countries that use the euro got off to a strong start in 2017 even as inflation pressures continue to mount in the wake of the recent rise in oil prices, a closely watched survey showed.

Financial information company IHS Markit said its gauge of business activity across the manufacturing and services sectors held steady at a five-and-a-half-year high of 54.4 points in January, still way above the 50 threshold between expansion and contraction. Encouragingly, the index's gauge of job creation spiked to a near nine-year high.

The firm said the recovery remains broad-based across the eurozone, but that it was particularly strong in Ireland, Spain and France. The survey comes hot on the heels of figures showing the eurozone economy expanded by a healthy 0.5 percent quarterly tick in the final three months of the year and several other indicators pointing to a pick-up in activity.

The eurozone faces a number of political challenges this year that could potentially derail the economy's recovery. They include uncertainty over whether President Donald Trump ushers in a new age of trade protectionism, the start of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union and elections in Germany and France, among others.

Another potential headache for the eurozone economy relates to rising inflation pressures that are largely due to the pick-up in oil prices from multi-year lows. According to IHS Markit, input cost inflation accelerated again in January, taking the rate of increase to its highest since March 2012.

2 US jobs growth surges in January (BBC) US businesses added 227,000 jobs in January, way above economists' forecasts of about 175,000. The figure, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compares with December's rise of 157,000, revised up slightly from last month's first estimate.

However, average pay barely rose, and the number of people working part-time but looking for full-time work rose. Even so, the jobs growth suggests that new president Donald Trump has inherited a stronger jobs market.

He has promised to to create 25 million jobs over 10 years to become "the greatest jobs president... ever". President Barack Obama's term from January 2009-17 saw the number of people with jobs increase by 11.25 million.

The number of unemployed people at 7.6 million was little changed. The unemployment rate edged up slightly to 4.8% from 4.7% in December, but this was due to more people looking for work. The percentage of adults working or looking for jobs increased to its highest level since September.

3 Anti-corruption stir rocks Romania (The Guardian) Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Bucharest and other Romanian cities on Friday, blowing whistles, waving giant national flags and booing at giant puppets of politicians they hold responsible for a decree to dilute the country’s anti-corruption fight.

The demonstration came amid a deepening political crisis after two key government allies said that the emergency government decree passed early on Wednesday without input from parliament was not constitutional. The influential Romanian Orthodox church criticised the measure, which some say will allow corrupt politicians to escape punishment.

The general prosecutor Augustin Lazar asked the Bucharest court of appeal to suspend and cancel the government decree “in an emergency regime” before it formally becomes law on 9 February.

A parliamentary party that formally supports the government, the Union of Democratic Hungarians in Romania, also criticised the government, saying that criminal law should not be modified through emergency decrees, but through parliamentary debate. In another setback for the government, the Orthodox church, to which more than 85% of Romanians belong, said that the anti-corruption fight should continue and that those found guilty should be sanctioned.

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