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BOV Market Watch - Week ending 3rd April 2020
06 Apr 2020

US initial jobless claims exceed six million. The US Labour Department reported an increase of more than six million people who filed for unemployment benefits in the week of March 27. Economists had forecast a figure of between four to five million claims as several states adopted strict coronavirus-related restrictions that limited business activity throughout the country. Some economists had predicted that the jobless claims figure would reach as high as nine million. The latest surge in jobless claims means that the employment rate may have fallen by more than six percentage points in the last two weeks alone and the April unemployment rate could hit ten percent.

German unemployment rises marginally in March. German unemployment was largely stable in March, before strict containment measures on business and movement of people brought about thousands of shutdowns in Europe’s largest economy. The number of people out of work rose by just 1,000, significantly less than economists expected. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at five percent during the month. The rate was forecast to rise to 5.1 percent. Germany’s federal labour agency cautioned that the report does not reflect the full impact of the covid-19 crisis as it is based on data available through March 12. With large parts of the economy in lockdown, unemployment is likely to have risen more.

UK house price growth fastest since early 2018: Nationwide. Data published by the Nationwide Building Society showed on Thursday that UK house prices grew at the fastest rate in more than two years in March before the coronavirus pandemic struck the British economy. House prices rose by three percent last month just before the coronavirus outbreak hit. But the mortgage lender warned that housing market activity is “grinding to a halt” as the coronavirus lockdown precludes potential buyers and sellers from viewing properties. Banks have also withdrawn mortgages or made it tougher to secure mortgages, further dampening house prices. In the first quarter of this year, house prices gained 1.3 percent sequentially, taking the annual growth rate to 2.5 percent.

India manufacturing “relatively sheltered” from coronavirus pandemic. India's manufacturing sector growth slowed in March due to a softer rise in output and new business amid the global coronavirus pandemic, a survey from IHS Markit showed this week. The headline seasonally-adjusted manufacturing PMI, fell to 51.8 in March from 54.5 in February. The reading signalled the slowest expansion since November 2019. New export business declined at the fastest rate since 2013 amid widespread lockdowns. "The Indian manufacturing sector remained relatively sheltered from the negative impact of the global coronavirus outbreak in March, however, there were pockets of disruption and a clear onset of fear among firms," said Eliot Kerr, Economist at IHS Markit.

China manufacturing expanded slightly in March. China's Caixin/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI, rebounded nearly 10 points to 50.1 in March, up from the record low of 40.3 in February. The reading, which is above the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction, was the largest monthly increase in the survey’s 16-year history. Output showed a modest return to growth but a sustained fall in new business inflows suggesting that further growth in output could be limited in the coming months and largely confined to processing backlogs.

Australia likely to see “very material” contraction: RBA minutes. Australia is set to undergo a “very material contraction” over the first half of the year, the minutes of the March 18 emergency monetary policy meeting of the Reserve Bank of Australia showed. After that meeting, the central bank unveiled a quantitative easing (bond-buying) programme. However, the minutes showed that members agreed that the cash rate was now at its effective lower bound and that policymakers had “no appetite” for negative interest rates, implying further cuts were not on the cards.

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Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company regulated by the MFSA and is licensed to carry out the business of banking and investment services in terms of the Banking Act (Cap. 371 of the Laws of Malta) and the Investment Services Act (Cap.370. of the Laws of Malta).