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Switzerland's economy is set to contract this year owing to the 'franc-shock' and falling oil prices, the KOF Swiss Economic Institute said Wednesday.

The Zurich-based think-tank slashed the growth projection for this year to -0.5 percent from 1.9 percent seen in December. The forecast for next year was cut to zero from 2.1 percent.

Growth was estimated at 2 percent for 2014, a tad above the December projection of 1.9 percent.

"The Swiss economy is expected to experience a short recession in the summer semester of 2015," KOF said.

"The direct effect on the Swiss business cycle of the increase in the value of the franc will be felt on the export market."

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Ireland's residential property prices growth accelerated slightly in December, figures from the Central Statistical Office showed Wednesday.

The residential property price index surged 16.3 percent year-on-year in December, following a 16.2 percent growth in November. In October, prices climbed 16.3 percent.

On a monthly basis, dwelling property prices rose at slower pace by 0.4 percent in December, after a 0.5 percent rise in the prior month.

Prices have been rising since April and the latest rate of growth was the weakest so far.

In the capital region Dublin, residential property prices increased 0.2 percent in December from the previous month and jumped 22.3 percent from the previous year.

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Austria's economy is set to expand an average 1.25 percent between 2015 and 2019, the Austrian Institute of Economic Research or WIFO, said on Wednesday.

The economy was estimated to have expanded 0.5 percent between 2012 and 2015, the think tank said. The WIFO also retained its December projections of 0.5 percent growth this year and 1.1 percent in 2016. Growth was estimated at 0.4 percent for 2014.

The slow pace of recovery in Austria was primarily due to weak export momentum owing to the feeble growth in its main trading partners, the WIFO said. Hence, the business investment remains subdued, and income and private consumption restrained despite low interest rates, it added.

Further, WIFO said employment continued to grow an average 0.8 percent per annum, but that would not able to prevent further rise in unemployment, which was projected to rise to 9.4 percent until 2017/18 and end the forecast horizon at 9.2 percent.

The institute also said that the government would fail to reach a balanced budget during the forecast horizon.

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Permits issued for residential buildings in Romania increased in December from a year ago, figures from the National Institute of Statistics showed Wednesday.

The number of dwelling building permits surged 5.1 percent year-on-year in December.

On a monthly basis, approved residential building permits fell 1.2 percent to 2,682 in December from 2,715 in November.

In the whole year 2014, the number of issued residential buildings was 37,672, down 0.3 percent from 2013.

Permits for dwellings in the rural areas rose to 1,740 in December from 1,713 in the previous month. Rural areas account for 64.9 percent percent of total dwelling permits issued in December. Urban areas saw permits ease to 942 from 1,002.

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Ireland's retail sales volume rose for the second straight month in December at a stable rate, preliminary figures from the Central Statistical Office showed Wednesday.

The volume of retail sales climbed a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent month-on-month in December, the same rate of growth as in the previous month, which was revised upwardly from 0.2 percent. In October, sales fell 0.4 percent.

Excluding motor trades, sales volume rose 1.9 percent in December from the previous month and advanced 4.8 percent from the previous year.

On an annual basis, retail sales volume surged 5.1 percent in December, faster than November's 4.9 percent gain, revised from 4.7 percent rise.

At the same time, the value of retail sales increased for the first time in five months by 0.1 percent in December, reversing a 0.1 percent fall in the prior month.

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Norway's unemployment rate was stable in November, less than the consensus estimate, data from a recent survey showed Wednesday.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for November, which is the average for the three months ended December, came in at 3.7 percent, unchanged from the rate in August, which is the average for the three months ended September, Statistics Norway said.

Economists were looking for a jobless rate of 3.8 percent for November.

Overall, on average there were around 102,000 jobless persons in November which was slightly less than 103,000 seen in the previous period.

At the same time, the number of persons in employment increased by around 17,000 to 2.65 million from August to November, data showed. The employment rate rose to 68.6 percent from 68.2 percent.

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The unemployment rate in Hungary fell unexpectedly in the three month period to December, figures from the Hungarian Central Statistical Office showed Wednesday.

The jobless rate fell slightly to 7.1 percent in the three months ended in December from 7.2 percent in the September to November period. Economists had expect the unemployment rate to rise to 7.3 percent.

A year earlier, the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent. In the three months to September, the jobless rate was 7.4 percent.

The number of unemployed persons decreased to 318,500 in the three-month period to December from 320,700 in the previous three-month period. A year ago, the jobless totaled 398,500.

Meanwhile the youth unemployment rate, which applies to the 15 to 24 age group, dropped to 18.3 percent from 19.4 percent.

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Slovakia's producer prices fell at a faster pace in December, figures from the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic showed Wednesday.

The producer price index fell 3.5 percent year-on-year in December following a 2.9 percent decrease in the previous month. This was the twenty third consecutive month of decline.

Prices in the manufacturing sector declined 2.4 percent and electricity, gas, steam and air-condition supply prices slid 6 percent. Meanwhile, prices in the mining and quarrying sector rose 1.7 percent.

On a monthly basis, producer prices dropped 0.9 percent in December, reversing the 0.3 percent growth in the previous month. In November, prices fell 0.1 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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Germany's consumer confidence improved strongly to a 13-year high at the start of the year, as a collapse in energy prices boosted disposable income and raised room for more spending, survey data from the GfK showed Wednesday.

The forward-looking consumer confidence index rose more-than-expected to 9.3 in February from 9.0 in January. This was the highest value since November 2001, when the score was at 9.6. The February reading was expected to rise marginally to 9.1.

The outlook for the consumer economy is continuing to brighten. The GfK said the domestic economy in Germany will again play an essential part in the overall economic development.

The group, however, cautioned not to underestimate the potential risks for economic development and also for consumption.

According to the survey based on around 2,000 consumers, significant increases were recorded in both economic and income expectations as well as the willingness to buy.

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France's consumer confidence remained stable in January, defying expectations for a rise, data from statistical office INSEE showed Wednesday.

The consumer confidence index came in at 90 in January, the same as in December. This was less than the 91 score expected by economists.

The index measuring households' opinion of their past financial situation and their future financial situation fell by 2 points each to -29 and -17, respectively.

Unemployment expectations rose in January as the corresponding index rose to 63 from 67.

Households' opinion of their current and future savings declined, as the respective indices dropped 3 points each.

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Germany's import prices declined at a faster-than-expected pace in December, figures from the statistical office Destatis showed Wednesday.

The import price index fell 3.7 percent year-on-year in December, faster than November's 2.1 percent decline. Economists had forecast a 3.4 percent decrease for the month.

December's decline in the index was mostly influenced by the sharp 26.4 percent fall in energy prices from the previous year. At the same time, excluding energy, the overall index gained 0.6 percent.

On a monthly basis, import prices slid 1.7 percent in December, exceeding economists' expectations for a 1.5 percent fall. In November, prices dropped 0.8 percent. It was the third consecutive monthly decline.

In the whole year 2014, import prices decreased 2.2 percent compared to the previous year. In 2013, prices slipped by 2.6 percent.

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Swiss consumption indicator increased in December as new car registrations surged, a report from the global financial services firm UBS showed Wednesday.

The UBS consumption indicator climbed to 1.42 in December from 1.29 in November.

New car registrations gained 20 percent month-over-month in December, marking the strongest December growth in survey history.

However, the UBS said that it is likely that most of the car purchases were made before the hike in carbon taxes, which came into force in January 2015. Thus, weaker sales can be expected for early 2015, the UBS predicted.

"The declining optimism in the retail sector is burdening the consumption indicator and curbing expectations for growth in private consumption, " the firm said.

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German consumer confidence data is among the few economic data scheduled for release from Europe on Wednesday, when the FOMC meeting across the Atlantic is expected to take the center stage .

Data from U.K 's Office for National Statistics showed yesterday that the country's GDP growth slowed more than expected in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the economy expanded at the fastest pace since 2007 in 2014, the report said.

At 2 am ET, German statistical office Destatis is due to release its import prices report. Import prices are expected to drop 3.4 percent year-over-year in December after the 2.1 percent decline in November. On a month-over-month basis, prices are forecast to fall 1.5 percent after the 0.8 percent decrease in the previous month.

Global financial services firm UBS is due to release its December consumption indicator figures for Switzerland around the same time. In November, the consumption indicator was at 1.29.

Also at 2 am ET, market research group GfK will release its consumer sentiment report for Germany. The forward looking consumer confidence index is expected to edge up to 9.1 in February from 9 in January.

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At an unscheduled meeting on Wednesday, Singapore's central bank unexpectedly eased its monetary policy and downgraded its inflation forecast, citing lower oil prices.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it will continue with the policy of a modest and gradual appreciation of the Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate (S$NEER) policy band but the slope of the band will be reduced.

There will be no change to the width and the level of the policy band at which it is centered.

The central bank assessed that it is appropriate to adjust the prevailing monetary policy stance as the developments in the global and domestic inflation environment since the last meeting in October led to a significant shift in inflation outlook.

"This measured adjustment to the policy stance is consistent with the more benign inflation outlook in 2015 and appropriate for ensuring medium-term price stability in the economy," the bank said in a statement.

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A leading index, which measures the future economic activity in France, remained unchanged in November, survey figures from Conference Board showed Tuesday.

The Conference Board's leading economic index showed no variations in November, following a revised 0.1 percent increase in October. Out of the seven components, five of them contributed positively to the index.

In the May to November period, the leading index climbed 0.9 percent, up from 0.5 percent over the previous six month period.

The coincident index that measures the current economic activity also remained unchanged in November, after a 0.1 percent fall each in both October and September.

Only two of the four components contributed positively to the index.

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China's consumer sentiment decreased marginally in January, results of a survey by MNI and Westpac showed Wednesday.

The Westpac-MNI consumer sentiment index edged down to 112.1 in January from 112.5 in December.

In November, the index was at 111.

by RTT Staff Writer

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Unemployment hit a record high in December, data from the Labour Ministry showed Tuesday.

The number of unemployed people rose 0.2 percent or by 8,100 over the previous month to 3,496,400 in December.

On a year-over-year basis, joblessness increased 5.7 percent in December.

by RTT Staff Writer

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Consumer prices in Australia gained just 1.7 percent on year in the fourth quarter of 2014, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

That was below forecasts for 1.8 percent, and down from 2.3 percent in the third quarter.

On a quarterly basis, inflation added just 0.2 percent versus forecasts for 0.3 percent and down from 0.5 percent in the previous three months.

The most significant price rises this quarter were for domestic holiday travel and accommodation (+5.8 percent), tobacco (+4.8 percent) and new dwelling purchase by owner-occupiers (+1.1 percent).

The most significant offsetting price falls this quarter were for automotive fuel (-6.8 percent), audio, visual and computing equipment (-5.2 percent) and audio, visual and computing media and services (-3.8 percent).

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The Australian economy appears to be stuck in neutral, the latest survey from Westpac Bank revealed on Wednesday, as its December leading index was flat on month.

That follows the 0.06 percent decline in November.

The leading index has reflected growth that is below trend in 11 or the last 12 months, the bank said.

"With commodity prices continuing to fall in 2015, incomes and confidence remain under pressure," the bank said.

by RTT Staff Writer

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Consumer prices in Australia were up just 1.7 percent on year in the fourth quarter of 2014, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

That was below forecasts for 1.8 percent, and down from 2.3 percent in the third quarter.

On a quarterly basis, inflation added just 0.2 percent versus forecasts for 0.3 percent and down from 0.5 percent in the previous three months.

The Reserve Bank of Australia's trimmed mean was up 0.7 percent on quarter and 2.2 percent on year in Q4, while the weighted median added 0.7 percent on quarter and 2.3 percent on year.

by RTT Staff Writer

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