daily world economic update

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    Economic Releases Updated Wednesday 03/26/2003
    RELEASE: ECB Balance of Payments [Euro Zone] (-6.4 billion euros)
    FIRST TAKE: The euro zone incurred a current account surplus of 400 million euros in January on a seasonally-adjusted basis, compared with a surplus of 7.6 billion euros one month ago. The monthly change owes mostly to a sharp increase in the deficit on income flows. The balance on goods showed a slight increase. In the financial account, combined direct and portfolio investment recorded net outflows of 16.5 billion euros in January 2003, which reflects sizable net outflows in portfolio investment during the month.

    RELEASE: IFO Business Climate Index [Germany] (88.1)
    FIRST TAKE: The IFO Business Climate Index lost momentum in March and declined slightly compared to the previous month. Both the index describing current conditions, as well as the index for expectations, showed a moderate decline, indicating that the German economy will continue to struggle.

    RELEASE: MBA Mortgage Applications Survey [United States] (1,520.9)
    FIRST TAKE: Rising mortgage rates dampened the demand for mortgage applications last week with the MBA index declining by 9% to 1,520.9. The drop, however, is limited to refi activity and leaves it still at a very high level. Purchase applications surged ahead, reversing their recent downward trend. The start of the war with Iraq appears to have little direct impact on mortgage activity.

    RELEASE: ABC News/Money Magazine Consumer Comfort Index [United States] (-28)
    FIRST TAKE: The ABC News/Money Magazine index of consumer comfort declined for the fourth straight week, falling to a more than nine-year low. The latest survey includes interviews since the war with Iraq began, but because the index reading reflects results over the prior four weeks, the recent slide is most likely still a reflection of waning consumer confidence leading up to the war.

    RELEASE: Durable Goods (Advance) [United States] (-1.2%)
    FIRST TAKE: February durable goods orders fell a bit more than expected, at 1.2%. Moreover, January's gain was revised down from 2.9% to 1.9%. Even less encouraging, once again the numbers would have been far worse had it not been for a massive 28% increase in defense orders.

    RELEASE: New Home Sales (C25) [United States] (854,000)
    FIRST TAKE: More signs of wear in the market for single-family homes are becoming visible. Sales of new homes unexpectedly declined in February to the slowest pace since August 2000. The impending war, weak economic conditions and poor weather pushed sales down by 8% to only 854,000 annualized units.

    RELEASE: Oil and Gas Inventories [United States] (273.9 MB)
    FIRST TAKE: Today's reports from the American Petroleum Institute and the Energy Information Administration regarding commercial crude oil stocks are ambiguous. While the API reported a small draw for the week ending March 21, the EIA reported a sizable build. Stocks of motor gasoline declined, while distillate stocks recorded a moderate build amid slower seasonal demand.

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