Elsewhere today, U.K. jobless claims unexpectedly fell in December and a quarterly measure of unemployment also dropped, underlining the resilience of the labor market in the face of a weak economic recovery.
Last year’s fourth-quarter drop in U.S. exports contributed to a widening of the trade gap, which, combined with a smaller increase in inventories, caused the world’s largest economy to slow even as consumer spending and business investment probably accelerated. Gross domestic product expanded at a 0.7% annual rate, the worst performance in almost two years, according to a UBS forecast.
The Commerce Department’s GDP estimate for last quarter comes out on Jan. 30. The economy grew at a 3.1% rate in the previous three months.
Nonetheless, the fourth quarter ended on a positive note, according to data from the Institute for Supply Management. The Tempe, Arizona-based purchasers group’s export measure exceeded the break-even 50 level in December for the first time since May. The index’s three-month average leads similar changes in actual exports by a few months, according to UBS research.
China’s GDP rose 7.9% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier compared with a 7.4% gain in the previous period, the National Bureau of Statistics said last week. It marked the first pickup since the end of 2010. Industrial output in December climbed a more-than-projected 10.3% and fixed-asset investment for the year gained 20.6%.
The World Bank’s forecast for growth in developing countries this year compared with a 5.1% estimate for 2012. Latin America will grow 3.5%, up from 3% in 2012 and led by a rebound in Brazil, the bank said.
“As global trade picks up, we’ll gain market share in a growing market,” said Joseph Carson, director of global economic research at AllianceBernstein LP in New York. “The direction of trade continues to favor emerging markets, where about 57% of our exports now are directed,” which represents about a 20 percentage-point gain over the past decade, he said.