Economic Outlook: Better, but not great

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  April 4, 2012 at 9:49 AM
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Payroll firm Automatic Data Processing Inc. said 209,000 jobs were added in the private sector in March -- more than expected, but not quite enough.

Economists had been looking for 203,000 new jobs, which is beginning to look average, given it is the fourth consecutive month 200,000 or more jobs were added to payrolls.

The best that can be said is that the employment picture is headed in the right direction. State and local governments are spending less, so the government's employment report out Friday is not likely to expand on the 209,000 mark by much.

The U.S. Federal Reserve said Tuesday that the economy "expanded moderately" in February, with gains in household worth due mostly to rising equity prices. Rising stock markets are a long trickle down to helping anyone who is unemployed. Household worth rises and credit improves, but that's still a long way from putting food on the table for families that haven't had stock portfolios since get and real became acquainted.

In Frankfurt, Germany, the European Central Bank Wednesday said it would keep key lending rates unchanged at 1 percent.

The fourth month of steady interest rates follows ECB's decision to pump $1 trillion into the economy through cheap, three-year loans to banks in Europe -- 800 of which participated in the program.

Concurrently, Eurostat, the European Commission's data office, said this week that unemployment had risen in both the 17-member eurozone and the 27-member European Union , climbing to 10.8 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively.

That puts and even sharper focus on inflation, which is not yet alarming, but higher than the central bank's 2 percent target. Eurostat's "flash estimate" for inflation in the surozone, the countries that use the euro as currency, stood at 2.6 percent for March.

Wednesday includes the Institute for Supply Management's business index for the service sector -- the index that seems to play runner up to the manufacturing index -- although it represents a far larger slice of the economic pie. The report is released mid-morning.

In international markets Wednesday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan gave up 2.29 percent, while the Shanghai composite index in China rose 0.47 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong added 1.31 percent, while the Sensex in India rose 0.68 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia was flat.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain dropped 1.4 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany lost 2.13 percent. The CAC 40 in France shed 1.73 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 declined 1.28 percent.

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