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Japan will on Monday release April figures for imports, exports and trade balance, highlighting a light day for Asia-Pacific economic activity.

In March, imports were down 14.5 percent on year, while exports climbed 8.5 percent for a trade surplus of 229.3 billion yen.

Singapore will provide April numbers for consumer prices; in March, inflation was up 0.2 percent on month and down 0.3 percent on year.

Taiwan will see April numbers for commercial sales and industrial output. Commercial sales are expected to fall 1.4 percent on year after losing 0.65 percent in March. Industrial output is expected to add an annual 4.1 percent after gaining 6.49 percent in the previous month.

Finally, the stock markets in South Korea and Hong Kong are closed on Monday for Buddha's birthday, and will re-open on Tuesday.

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Belgium's consumer confidence rose for the first time in three months in May to reach its highest level in four years, on the back of significant improvement in the macroeconomic outlook during the month, the National Bank of Belgium said Friday.

The consumer confidence indicator climbed to -3 from -6 seen in both March and April. In February, the score was -5.

Economic expectations for the next twelve months improved strongly and the indicator rose to 4 from zero. The unemployment expectations measure eased sharply to 17 from 24, reflecting significantly reduced concerns of households regarding a rise in joblessness.

Meanwhile, consumers' view on their future financial situation remained unchanged at -1 in May. Their assessment of future saving capacity improved with the index climbing to 4 from 2.

by RTT Staff Writer

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Consumer prices in the U.S. rose in line with economist estimates in the month of April, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Friday, although the report also showed a bigger than expected increase in core prices.

The Labor Department said its consumer price index inched up by 0.1 percent in April after rising by 0.2 percent in each of the two previous months. The modest increase matched economist estimates.

The uptick in consumer prices was partly due to an increase in prices for shelter, which rose by 0.3 percent for the second straight month.

On the other hand, the report said energy prices tumbled by 1.3 percent in April after jumping by 1.1 percent in March. Food prices were unchanged.

The core consumer price index, which excludes food and energy prices, rose by 0.3 percent in April following two consecutive 0.2 percent monthly increases.

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European Central Bank President Mario Draghi reiterated on Friday that euro area economic conditions have improved, indicating a cyclical recovery, and urged the region's governments to make progress on structural reform that is essential to sustain the momentum.

"The economic outlook for the euro area is brighter today than it has been for seven long years. Monetary policy is working its way through the economy," Draghi said in a speech at an ECB central banking conference in Sintra, Portugal.

"Growth is picking up. And inflation expectations have recovered from their trough. This is by no means the end of our challenges, and a cyclical recovery alone does not solve all of Europe's problems."

That said, a cyclical recovery can provide near perfect conditions for governments to engage more systematically in the structural reforms that will anchor the return to growth, the ECB Chief said.

"Monetary policy can steer the economy back to its potential. Structural reform can raise that potential. And it is the combination of these demand and supply policies that will deliver lasting stability and prosperity," he added.

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Turkey's manufacturing capacity utilization climbed for the second straight month in May, figures from the central bank showed Friday.

The capacity utilization rate rose to 74.9 percent in May from 74.1 percent in the previous month. The latest figure was the highest since October last year, when it was the same 74.9 percent.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the capacity utilization rate came in at 74.7 percent in May, up slightly from 74.6 percent in April.

Separately, the central bank announced that industry confidence improved for the sixth consecutive month in May, with the corresponding index increasing to 109.0 from 107.9 in the prior month. The latest score was the highest since June last year, when it marked 110.7.

by RTT Staff Writer

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German business confidence weakened marginally from a 10-month high in May and the economy grew at a slower pace in the first quarter, as initially estimated, revealed two separate reports released Friday.

The business confidence index fell less-than-expected to 108.5 in May from 108.6 in April, according to a survey by Munich-based Ifo Institute. This was the first fall in seven months but the index came in above the economists' estimate of 108.3.

Companies were once again more satisfied with their current business situation, but were slightly less optimism about the months ahead.

The current conditions index rose unexpectedly to 114.3 from a revised 114 in April. Economists had expected it to fall to 113.5.

On the other hand, the expectations index slid to 103 in May, in line with expectations, from a revised 103.4 a month ago.

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Iceland's wage growth eased for the second straight month in April and reached a 10-month low, figures from Statistics Iceland showed Friday.

The wage index increased 5.2 percent year-over-year in April, slower than March's 5.6 percent climb. The latest rate of growth was the slowest since May last year, when it rose 5.2 percent.

On a monthly basis, the wage index growth slowed to 0.2 percent in April from 0.3 percent in the preceding month. This was the lowest since December last year, when it was stable.

The real wage index rose 0.1 percent in April from the previous month, while it grew 3.7 percent from the previous year.

by RTT Staff Writer

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Taiwan's economy grew slower than initially estimated in the first quarter and the government forecast slower growth for the year, a report from the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting & Statistics showed Friday.

Gross domestic product grew 3.37 percent in the first quarter from last year, revised from 3.46 percent increase reported on April 30. The growth rate for the fourth quarter of 2014 was revised to 3.47 percent from 3.35 percent. Economists had expected the growth rate to accelerate to 3.50 percent.

This was the slowest since the third quarter in 2013 when GDP rose 1.45 percent.

On the expenditure side, the real private final consumption grew 2.52 percent annually in the first quarter, while real government final consumption contracted by 2.19 percent. Gross capital formation rose by 0.35 percent.

Exports of goods and services declined 2.18 percent in the first quarter and imports fell 13.26.

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Italy's retail sales dropped unexpectedly in March, after staying flat in the previous month, figures from the statistical office Istat showed Friday.

Retail sales fell 0.2 percent year-over-year in March, defying economists' expectations for a 0.4 percent climb. In February, sales showed no variations, which was revised from a 0.1 percent increase reported earlier.

Sales of non-food products decreased 0.8 percent in March from a year ago, while sales of food products grew by 0.7 percent.

Month-on-month, retail sales edged down a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent in March, the same rate of decline as in February, revised from a 0.2 percent hike. Economists had expected a 0.2 percent increase for the month.

In the first quarter, total retail sales rose 0.3 percent compared with the corresponding period of the prior year.

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Greece's current account deficit in March increased from a year ago, figures from the Bank of Greece showed Friday.

The current account deficit widened to EUR 404.1 million in March from EUR 88.4 million in the same month of the previous year.

The goods trade deficit narrowed to EUR 1.01 billion in March from EUR 1.29 billion a year ago. Meanwhile, surplus on services trade shrank to EUR 611.5 million from EUR 785 million in March last year.

Surplus in primary income decreased sharply to EUR 39.7 million in March from EUR 375.4 million in the corresponding month of the prior year. At the same time, secondary income balance turned to a deficit of EUR 49.5 million in March from a surplus of EUR 38.0 million.

Capital account surplus grew markedly to EUR 321.2 million from EUR 6.7 million a year earlier. financial account balance showed a surplus of EUR 40.8 million in March, down considerably from EUR 497.0 million surplus in last year.

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European Central Bank President Mario Draghi reiterated on Friday that euro area economic conditions have improved, indicating a cyclical recovery, and progress on structural reform is needed to sustain it.

"The economic outlook for the euro area is brighter today than it has been for seven long years. Monetary policy is working its way through the economy," Draghi said in a speech at a central banking conference in Sintra, Portugal.

"Growth is picking up. And inflation expectations have recovered from their trough. This is by no means the end of our challenges, and a cyclical recovery alone does not solve all of Europe's problems."

That said, a cyclical recovery can provide near perfect conditions for governments to engage more systematically in the structural reforms that will anchor the return to growth, the ECB Chief said.

"Monetary policy can steer the economy back to its potential. Structural reform can raise that potential. And it is the combination of these demand and supply policies that will deliver lasting stability and prosperity," he added.

...
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Italy's industrial orders dropped unexpectedly in March, after rising in the prior month, figures from the statistical office Istat showed Friday.

Industrial orders fell 0.3 percent month-over-month in March, defying economists' expectations for a 0.7 percent increase. In February, orders had risen 0.8 percent.

On an annual basis, industrial orders climbed at a faster pace of 2.7 percent in March, faster than previous month's 2.0 percent gain. It was the second consecutive monthly increase.

Industrial turnover also expanded for the second straight month in March. It rose a seasonally adjusted 1.3 percent monthly in March, following a 0.4 percent hike in February.

Yearly, total industrial turnover grew 0.9 percent in March, reversing a 0.9 percent decrease in the preceding month. It was the first climb in three months.

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Dutch consumer confidence improved as expected in May after stagnating in the previous month, while consumer speeding growth eased slightly in March, figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics showed Friday.

The consumer confidence index rose to 2.0 In May from 0 in April. The score also in line with economists' expectations. In March, the reading was also 2.0.

The increase in confidence is mainly because the propensity to consume is less negative, the agency said.

Consumer were less pessimistic about their future financial situation. Their willingness to buy in May slightly better than in April, with the respective index rising to -5 from -8.

The statistical office also announced that consumer spending rose 1.9 percent year-over-year in March, but slower than February's 2.0 percent growth.

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Austria's production index increased in March from a year ago, figures from Statistics Austria showed Friday.

The production index, which combines industrial production and construction, rose a working-day-adjusted 0.8 percent year-over-year in March.

Production in the industrial sector grew 2.1 percent in March, while construction output dropped by 4.8 percent.

Among sub-sectors, production in the energy sector decreased 3.4 percent and that for consumer durables slipped by 3 percent. However, capital goods sector logged an increase of 7.2 percent and intermediate goods output rose 1.4 percent.

Month-on-month, the seasonally adjusted production index dipped 0.8 percent in March. Both construction and industrial output declined 0.2 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

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French consumer confidence improved unexpectedly in May to the strongest level since August 2011, survey data from the statistical office Insee showed Friday.

The manufacturing confidence index rose slightly to 103 in May from 102 in the previous month, which was revised from a reading of 101. Economists had expected the index to remain stable at 101.

According to the business managers, the balance on opinion on past change in production continued to grow strongly in May. The corresponding index climbed to 15 from 5 in the previous month. It was also the highest score since August 2011.

The balance of opinion on personal production expectations remained stable at 6 in May. At the same time, the balance on general production outlook, which represents business managers' opinion on French industry as a whole, worsened to -1 from 2.

by RTT Staff Writer

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Germany's economic growth eased as estimated in the first quarter largely due to the weakness in foreign trade, final data from Destatis showed Friday.

Gross domestic product grew 0.3 percent sequentially in the first quarter, slower than the 0.7 percent expansion seen in the fourth quarter.

Likewise, annual growth slowed to 1.1 percent from 1.6 percent in the prior quarter. This was the slowest growth since the second quarter of 2014. The calendar-adjusted GDP also grew at a slower pace of 1 percent after rising 1.4 percent a quarter ago.

The first quarter GDP figures matched the preliminary estimate published on May 13.

The quarterly growth in exports slowed to 0.8 percent from 1 percent and imports climbed 1.5 percent, slower than the 1.9 percent rise a quarter ago. Consequently, the net trade contributed negative 0.2 percentage points to GDP.

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The total value of new orders received by the German construction industry declined in March, figures from Destatis showed Friday.

Orders in the construction sector fell a seasonally and working-day-adjusted 2.2 percent month-over-month in March.

Demand in the civil engineering construction sector decreased 2.8 percent in March from the prior month and orders in the building construction sector went down by 1.7 percent.

On an annual basis, the price and working-day-adjusted order intakes grew by 1.7 percent in March.

In the first quarter of this year, total new orders climbed 1.6 percent compared with the corresponding period of the previous year.

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Business confidence and detailed quarterly national accounts from Germany and public finance from the U.K. are the major reports due on Friday.

At 2.00 am ET, Destatis is slated to release final German gross domestic product data for the first quarter. According to preliminary estimate, the economy expanded 0.3 percent.

At 2.45 am ET, the French statistical office Insee is set to publish manufacturing confidence survey data. The corresponding index is forecast to remain unchanged at 101 in May.

At 3.30 am ET, Dutch consumer confidence and consumer spending reports are due.

Germany's Ifo business confidence is due at 4.00 am ET. Economists forecast the business confidence index to fall to 108.3 in May from 108.6 in April and the current conditions index to drop to 113.5 from 113.9. The expectations index is seen at 103 versus 103.5 a month ago.

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The Bank of Japan refrained from easing monetary stimulus further as policymakers assessed that faster economic growth in the first quarter warrants no more immediate actions.

The Policy Board of the BoJ governed by Haruhiko Kuroda decided by an 8-1 majority vote to maintain its target of raising the monetary base at an annual pace of about JPY 80 trillion.

The BoJ had earlier expanded the stimulus in October, citing notable downward pressure from a substantial decline in crude prices hindering its ability to reach the 2 percent inflation target.

At the May meeting, policymakers provided a more optimistic view on the economy. The economy expanded an annualized 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2015, helped by private consumption.

The BoJ said the economy had continued to recover moderately withdrawing the word "trend." The bank also lifted its assessment of private consumption as well as housing investment.

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