The bad news of today: The first 2.1% decline in housing starts in 4 months.
Wall Street took the news, reported by Bloomberg here, and went on a zig-course to finish a tad higher.
The FT had this report, stating that homebuilders' confidence has dropped to a 15-year low.
So far the market also seems resilient to factor in rising oil prices. Crude climbed above the $69 mark again and the hot summer driving season promises solid demand.
Other than that it was a quiet day where the following out-of-the-norm headlines captured my attention:
- China halts tax rebates on 2,800 export items
"The government will eliminate or cut tax rebates for more than 2,800 export items from July 1 - in the boldest move yet to rein in exports since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
The affected items account for 37 percent of all export products, the Ministry of Finance announced yesterday.
Export tax rebates for 553 "highly energy-consuming and resource-intensive" products, such as cement, fertilizer and non-ferrous metals, will be eliminated, the ministry said.
Rebates for another 2,268 products, described as "easy to trigger trade frictions", will be slashed from 8-17 percent to 5-11 percent. They include garments, toys, steel products and motorcycles.
Chinese officials have urged the World Trade Organization (WTO) to put less pressure on China when it comes to agricultural issues during its drector-general Pascal Lamy's visit to the country.
By imposing restrictions on more categories, Washington has ignored China's efforts at enlarging imports from the United States, which will negatively affect the process of balancing two-way trade, Yao Shenhong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday.
Yesterday's announcement follows the imposition or raising of export tariffs on 142 categories of goods effective June 1. The products include steel billets and non-ferrous metal minerals.
Both steps are part of the policy package designed to control soaring exports and bloating trade surplus.
From January to May, exports surged 27.8 percent year-on-year to $443.5 billion; and the trade surplus rocketed 83.1 percent to $85.7 billion, according to Customs statistics.
The huge surplus has aggravated such problems as trade conflicts with other countries and pressures on China to revalue the renminbi, as well as excessive liquidity at home, the ministry said.
Liu Xueqin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce, said: "The new policy will restrain exports because it affects a broad range of products."
Domestic producers say they are already feeling the pressure from the export control measures.
"Our steel companies are at threat (of losing foreign markets). But we can understand the overall significance of the policy," Qi Xiangdong, deputy secretary general of the China Iron & Steel Association, told China Daily.
The association predicted earlier that, as a result of the export disincentives, the country - the world's top steel producer - would this year export no more or even less than last year.
Steel exports totaled 43 million tons in 2006, a growth of 110 percent over 2005.
The finance ministry said the new policy will also help slow down investment in fixed assets and reduce over-capacity; and lead to sustainable development.
Many industrial sectors, such as steel, cement and motorcycles, are believed to have excessive production capacity in relation to domestic demand."
- I also liked a report from stockinterview.com that sees molybdenum shortages ahead. Seems every metal is in extremely high demand nowadays.
- The International Herald Tribune warns us that in-flight mobile calling will be permitted in Europe in the near future. Goodbye silence.
- USAToday has an alarming story on the disappearance of Lake Superior where the shoreline has receded up to 50 feet while the water level fell a foot within only 12 months.
- AP had a story on "godless dollars" that is worth checking out for entertainment purposes.
- Of more importance is probably the first find of 600 million barrels oil in Ghana, which will make the country an African tiger, boasts president John Kufuor via BBC.