Inflation Cools in March as Fed’s Interest Rate Increases Take Effect: Labor Department Report
The latest report from the Labor Department shows that inflation in the U.S. economy cooled in March, indicating that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases are beginning to have a positive impact.
The consumer price index, which is a widely followed measure of the cost of goods and services in the country, rose 0.1% for the month, falling short of Dow Jones’ estimated 0.2%. The index also rose 5% from a year ago, lower than the estimated 5.1%.
Although inflation remains above the Fed’s target level of 2%, the data indicates that it is showing signs of decelerating. This is a positive sign for policymakers, who have been grappling with rising inflation rates in recent months.
The report showed that energy costs dropped by 3.5%, while food costs remained unchanged, both contributing to the lower-than-expected inflation rate.
Excluding food and energy, the core CPI rose 0.4% and 5.6% annually, in line with expectations. The report also showed that used vehicle prices, which had previously contributed to the inflation surge earlier in the year, declined by 0.9% in March and are now down 11.2% year over year.
Shelter costs, which account for a third of the weighting in the CPI, rose by 0.6%, the smallest gain since November. However, it still resulted in prices rising by 8.2% annually, closely watched by Fed officials.
The report is likely to be well received by investors as stock market futures rose sharply, while Treasury yields fell.
The markets were still pricing in a 65% chance of a final 0.25 percentage point interest rate increase at the Fed’s May meeting, although this was slightly lower than Tuesday, according to the CME Group.
The Fed has raised its benchmark interest rate nine times over the past year, for a total of 4.75 percentage points, in an effort to control inflation. The bank initially dismissed the inflation surge as transitory, but as it persisted, the Fed was forced to raise interest rates more quickly.
The labor market has also been a key target for the central bank, as a shortage of workers had previously contributed to rising wages and prices. However, in March, nonfarm payrolls increased by 236,000, the smallest gain since December 2020, and average hourly earnings rose at a 4.2% annual pace, the lowest level since June 2021.
The Fed is hoping to balance its policy to prevent a recession while engineering a slowdown in the labor market. Gross domestic product growth is tracking at a 2.2% annualized pace for the first quarter, according to Atlanta Fed data, although many economists predict a contraction later in the year.
Nigeria’s Economy Grows at Slower Pace in Q1 2023 as Cash Crunch Weighs on Productivity
The Nigerian economy grew at a 2.31% pace in real terms in the first quarter (Q1) 2023, according to the latest report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This represents a 0.8% year-on-year decline when compared to the 3.11% recorded in the first quarter of 2022.
The bureau attributed the decline to the impact of cash crunch experienced across the nation during the quarter under review.
However, growth was driven mainly by the Services sector, which recorded a growth of 4.35% and contributed 57.29% to the aggregate Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The agriculture sector contracted by -0.90%, below the 3.16% growth recorded in the first quarter of 2022. Although the growth of the industry sector improved to 0.31% relative to – 6.81% recorded in the first quarter of 2022, agriculture, and the industry sectors contributed less to the aggregate GDP in the quarter under review compared to the first quarter of 2022.
In the first quarter, aggregate GDP stood at N51,242,151.21 million in nominal terms, higher when compared to the first quarter of 2022 which recorded aggregate GDP of N45,317,823.33 million, indicating a year-on-year nominal growth of 13.07%.
The Nigerian Oil Sector
Nigeria was pumping crude oil at 1.51 million barrels per day (mbpd) in the first quarter, higher than the 1.49mbpd recorded in the first quarter of 2022 and 0.17mbpd higher than 1.34mbpd pumped in the fourth quarter of 2022.
The sector contracted by 4.21% (year-on-year) in Q1 2023, indicating an increase of 21.83% points relative to the -26.04% recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2022 while growth in the sector rose by 9.18% points when compared to –13.38% filled in the final quarter of 2022. On a quarterly basis, the oil sector recorded a growth rate of 20.68% in Q1 2023.
The sector contributed 6.21% to the total real GDP in the quarter under review, down from 6.63% and 4.34% recorded in the first quarter of 2022 and up from the preceding quarter respectively.
The Nigerian Non-Oil Sector
According to the report, the non-oil sector expanded by 2.77% in real terms in Q1 2023. Representing a decline of 3.30% from the same quarter of 2022 and 1.67% points lower than the final quarter of 2022.
The non-oil sector was driven in the first quarter of 2023 mainly by Information and Communication (Telecommunication); Financial and Insurance (Financial Institutions); Trade; Manufacturing (Food, Beverage & Tobacco); Construction; and Transportation & Storage (Road Transport), accounting for positive GDP growth.
In real terms, the non-oil sector contributed 93.79% to the nation’s GDP in the first quarter of 2023, higher than the share recorded in the first quarter of 2022 which was 93.37% and lower than the fourth quarter of 2022 recorded as
German Economy Plunges Into Recession as Household Spending Succumbed to Inflationary Pressure
Europe’s largest economy, Germany has plunged into recession as inflationary pressure eroded consumer spending and household income.
The economy contracted by 0.3% in the first quarter of the year following a 0.5% decline recorded in the final quarter of 2022. An economy is said to be in recession if it contracted for two successive quarters.
German economic GDP data showed “surprisingly negative signals,” said Finance Minister Christian Lindner on Thursday. Comparing Germany with other developed economies, the minister said the economy was losing potential for growth.
“I don’t want Germany to play in a league in which we have to relegate ourselves to the last positions,” he said, referring to the forecasts of the International Monetary Fund, which predicted a recession in 2023 only in Germany and Britain among European countries.
However, Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, had attributed the slowdown in growth to the previous exposure to Russia’s energy supply and the decision to cut supply following the breakout of war in Ukraine.
“We’re fighting our way out of this crisis,” Habeck said at an event in Berlin on Thursday.
“Under the weight of immense inflation, the German consumer has fallen to his knees, dragging the entire economy down with him,” said Andreas Scheuerle, an analyst at DekaBank.
Data revealed by Investors King showed German household consumption declined by 1.2% quarter on quarter after price, seasonal and calendar adjustments. While government spending also contracted substantially by 4.9% in the quarter.
“The warm winter weather, a rebound in industrial activity, helped by the Chinese reopening, and an easing of supply chain frictions were not enough to get the economy out of the recessionary danger zone,” ING global head of macro Carsten Brzeski said.
By contrast, investment was up in the first three months of the year, following a weak second half of 2022. Investment in machinery and equipment increased by 3.2% compared with the previous quarter, while investment in construction went up 3.9% on quarter.
There were also positive contributions from trade. Exports rose 0.4%, while imports fell 0.9%.
“The massive rise in energy prices took its toll in the winter half-year,” Commerzbank chief economist Joerg Kraemer said.
A recession could not be avoided and now the question is whether there will be any recovery in the second half of the year.
“Looking beyond the first quarter, the optimism at the start of the year seems to have given way to more of a sense of reality,” Brzeski said.
Power Crisis Looms: South Africa Braces for Record-Breaking Winter Blackouts
As winter descends upon South Africa, the nation finds itself on the precipice of an unprecedented power crisis. Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the state electricity company, is struggling to meet the surging demand, and the country is bracing for an alarming wave of record-breaking blackouts.
With 3,000 megawatts less capacity than the previous year, Eskom’s acting CEO, Calib Cassim, delivered a sobering message to reporters: South Africa is heading into a “difficult winter.” In a worst-case scenario, the utility may be forced to implement loadshedding on a massive scale, cutting a staggering 8,000 megawatts from the electricity grid. This would translate into 16 hours of outages during a 32-hour cycle, pushing the nation’s resilience to the brink.
Already burdened by power rationing, South Africa has experienced its most severe bout of outages in recent memory. Eskom’s inability to keep up with demand, largely due to aging and poorly maintained power plants, has dealt a blow to the nation’s economic growth rate. The central bank estimates that the power crisis will shave off a substantial 2 percentage points from South Africa’s already struggling economy this year.
The consequences of the ongoing blackouts extend beyond the economic sphere, as investor sentiment takes a hit. The South African rand, the national currency, has witnessed a sharp decline of 12% this year, marking it as the worst-performing major currency among those monitored by Bloomberg. This stark decline sets South Africa apart from its emerging-market peers, who have managed to make strides against the US dollar.
Analysts are sounding the alarm, with headlines dominated by the intensification of loadshedding and its grim implications for the country. Although South Africa has implemented several measures to stabilize the power supply, progress has been limited. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to expand the procurement of renewable energy have been hindered by a lack of grid capacity, hampering efforts to transition to cleaner and more sustainable sources.
In a bid to address the crisis, Ramaphosa appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as the electricity minister. However, the absence of clearly defined powers has impeded his ability to effectively resolve the dire situation, leaving South Africa in a precarious position.
Eskom’s recent efforts to improve its performance have been plagued by setbacks. Maintenance at the Koeberg nuclear facility has fallen behind schedule, and repairs are required at the Kusile coal-fired plant. The energy availability factor, a crucial metric that measures usable generation capacity, has plummeted to 52%, well below the targeted 60%, according to Cassim.
Adding to Eskom’s woes, former CEO Andre de Ruyter’s memoir has exposed dysfunctionality within the company’s plants, instances of improper conduct by officials, and persistent political interference. These revelations have further eroded trust and cast a shadow of uncertainty over Eskom’s ability to navigate the power crisis.
Crime and sabotage have compounded the challenges faced by Eskom. Incidents are under investigation, diverting attention and resources away from essential plant operations. Eskom emphasizes the need to concentrate on running the facilities efficiently and calls on the public to reduce electricity consumption, especially during peak periods.
South Africa finds itself at a critical juncture as it confronts an imminent power crisis of unprecedented magnitude. The outcome of this challenge will determine the nation’s economic stability, investor confidence, and its ability to secure a sustainable energy future. As winter approaches, the need for swift and effective solutions has never been more urgent. Failure to address this crisis could plunge South Africa into darkness, both literally and metaphorically.
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