China factory activity expands
BEIJING • China's manufacturing sector continued to expand output last month, adding to evidence that the world's second-largest economy is stabilising as the signing of a "phase one" trade deal with the United States nears.
The manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index remained at 50.2, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics yesterday. The outlook for export-oriented firms brightened, with a sub-index of new orders for export rising above the 50 mark for the first time since May 2018, production recovering for a second month and output prices narrowing their decline.
On the downside, the non-manufacturing gauge fell to 53.5 from 54.4, and an index of small manufacturing firms dropped after a strong rebound from the previous month.
US goods trade deficit narrows
WASHINGTON • The US merchandise-trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed for a third month in November to the smallest shortfall in three years. Exports increased and imports declined, the latest sign that economic growth is holding up at the end of the year.
The gap decreased to US$63.2 billion (S$85 billion) from US$66.8 billion the prior month, according to Commerce Department data released on Monday, compared with forecasts for a widening to US$68.7 billion. Exports rose 0.7 per cent while imports dropped 1.3 per cent.
The further narrowing of the trade deficit will help give a boost to growth in the fourth quarter. The report comes after the US and China agreed last month to the first phase of a trade agreement.
S. Korea 2019 inflation at record low
SEOUL • South Korea's consumer inflation picked up last month but its full-year reading set a record low as consumer demand remained shaky, reinforcing expectations that the central bank will need to cut interest rates again this year.
The consumer price index rose 0.7 per cent last month from a year earlier, the statistics agency said yesterday, up sharply from a 0.2 per cent rise in November and slightly faster than a median 0.6 per cent gain tipped in a Reuters survey.
Still, the average rate of inflation for all of last year came to a record low 0.4 per cent, compared with 1.5 per cent in 2018.
The annual inflation rate falls far below the central bank's target of 2 per cent.