A composite leading indicator designed to anticipate turning points in economic activity in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) area suggests that growth momentum is easing in most major economies.

The index fell for the 12th consecutive month in March, hitting its lowest level since 2009, inching down to 99.0 from 99.1 in February. The OECD data underscores the fragility for the global economy in 2019 as fears of a full-blown US-China trade war put a dampener on already weak trade and choke output in exporting countries.

Meanwhile, the German economy returned to growth in the first quarter of this year as consumers spent more and construction activity perked up. However, the government warned that the outlook remained clouded by trade disputes.

GDP in Europe’s largest economy grew by 0.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of this year, after remaining flat in the final three months of 2018 and contracting by 0.2 per cent in the preceding quarter. The latest growth rate was in line with expectations.

The rebound takes some pressure off the European Central Bank to provide fresh monetary stimulus to counter the effects of slowing global growth.

Finally, in the US, the Commerce Department said that retail sales inched down by 0.2 per cent in April after surging by an upwardly revised 1.7 per cent in March. Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.2 per cent. The fall in sales was the second in three months, reflecting soft purchases of cars and building materials and suggesting that consumer spending will remain subdued this quarter. Excluding vehicles and fuel, retail sales fell 0.2 per cent following a 1.1 per cent increase.

The retail sales report followed another report by the Federal Reserve that showed that US factory production fell in April for a third time in four months.

This report was compiled by Bank of Valletta for general information purposes only.

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