Last week, was a very busy week for economic data. These are the notes off my desk, most are in chronological order, and separated be geographical regions.

This week, the first report on GDP data covering all the Group of 20 countries showed the world economy slowed to a quarter-on-quarter growth rate of 0.7% in the fourth quarter from 0.9% in the third quarter.

Europe

Eurozone ministers, in a conference call on Friday, already approved releasing part of the €130 billion that is helping finance the debt swap. A final meeting width=150has been set in Brussels to give their final approval to the second Greek bailout and to discuss tightening measures to prevent a repetition of the crisis.

Spanish officials are expected on Monday to seek support of their European counterparts for the country's recent announcement that the 2012 budget deficit would reach 5.8%, overshooting an EU target of 4.4%, media reports said.

Italy's gross domestic product declined by 0.7% in the fourth quarter, compared to the three months in the prior quarter, Italy's statistical office, ISTAT, said on Mon.

Van Rompuy claims that the conclusion of a debt relief program for Greece was the strongest evidence yet that the continent is getting its debt crisis under control.

 A closely-watched gauge of German investor sentiment jumped sharply in March to its highest level since June 2010. The Mannheim-based Center for European Economic Research, or ZEW, said its sentiment indicator rose to 22.3 from 5.4 in February

Italian government bond prices continued to rally Wednesday, pushing down yields, after the nation's Treasury sold 5 billion euros ($6.5 billion) of three-year bonds in an auction. The sale produced a gross yield of 2.76%, down from 3.41% 

Spanish house prices fell 11.2% in the fourth quarter of 2011 on an annual basis, a decrease of almost four percentage points from the previous quarter, with the index at the lowest since the first quarter of 2007, the national statistical office

Borrowing costs fell for two Spanish auctions of short-dated paper on Thursday, but rose for the longer-dated paper, according to data from the Bank of Spain. The Spanish Treasury sold a total of 3 billion euros worth of bonds ($3.9 billion).

Real wages fell again in the 17 countries that use the euro in the fourth quarter of last year, while employment also declined; confirming consumption and confidence are likely to remain weak as the region teeters on the brink of a return to recession

Official data released Friday in Spain showed government debt rose to 68.5% of gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2011. Data published by the Bank of Spain revealed the debt number was the highest stretching back to 1995.

width=150Switzerland

Switzerland's central bank on Thursday said it would continue to cap the strength of the Swiss franc, pledging to enforce a minimum 1.20 Swiss franc exchange rate versus the euro with the utmost determination. 

UBS AG (UBS), Switzerland's largest bank by market capitalization, Friday raised it forecasts for Swiss economic growth for this year and next, and expects the country to avoid slipping into a recession despite the effects of the strong franc. 

United Kingdom

width=150The number of British workers seeking jobless benefits rose by 7,200 in February to 1.61 million, the Office for National Statistics reported Wednesday. Economists had forecast a rise of 5,000. The number of unemployed persons rose by 28,000, rising well above forecasts, surprising lawmakers and economist.

Fitch Ratings is lowering its outlook for the United Kingdom, indicating a ratings downgrade may be coming.

The rating agency said that while the UK was well-positioned now, it had limited ability to absorb any further economic shocks from the European economic crisis.

Fitch affirmed its triple-A investment grade ratings for the UK's issuer default and country ceiling ratings. But it lowered the UK's rating outlook to negative from stable and said there was a more than 50 per cent chance of a downgrade over the next two years.

USA

width=150US Retail sales climbed to a five-month high in February, as rising gasoline prices weren't enough to choke off demand for cars, clothing and other goods. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 1.1%

The FOMC members held their course today, taking no new actions and offering few hints about their eagerness to start on future programs to strengthen the recovery. In their appraisal of the U.S. Economy, the central bank officers recognized increase in the employment market, but warned that business hazards remain and that inflation could rise briefly due to the current increase in gas and oil costs.

Bernanke on Wednesday said again that the pace of the economic recovery has been frustratingly slow.

The U.S. current account deficit, which is the combined balances on trade in goods and services, income, and donations, widened to $124.1 billion in the fourth quarter.

Import prices rose 0.4% in February owing to a spike in oil, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. It's the first increase in three months and biggest gain since April 2011.

Rising gas prices didn't choke off U.S. consumers' demand for cars, clothing and other goods in February; retail sales rose 1.1% to $407.8 billion.

The recent increase in oil and gasoline prices will push up inflation temporarily, but the FOMC anticipates that subsequently inflation will run at or below the rate it judges most consistent with its dual mandate,

But the labor market has improved at a faster pace than expected, given the current pace of growth. First-quarter gross domestic product is expected to decelerate to roughly 2% from the 3% pace in the fourth quarter.

Business inventories climbed in January as car dealers correctly anticipated a strong pickup in demand, according to data released Tuesday.width=150

Inventories rose a seasonally adjusted 0.7% to $1.57 trillion, the largest increase since October, the Commerce Department said.

The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits fell by 14,000 last week to 351,000, matching a four-year low, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 365,000 from 362,000.

The Empire State manufacturing index rose to 20.2 in March, the New York Federal Reserve Bank said Thursday. This is the fourth straight increase after the index had sunk below zero from June through October.

U.S. wholesale prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in February, the fastest increase in five months, sparked by higher petroleum costs, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Foreign investors were buyers in January of a net $94.7 billion of long-term U.S. securities, Treasury Department data released Thursday showed. This is much stronger than the revised $19.4 billion of net sales in December. 

Manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region edged higher in March to its highest reading since last April, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve reported Thursday. The bank's business condition index rose to 12.5 in March from 10.2 in February

Foreclosure activity fell 8% nationally, compared with a year ago, according to RealtyTrac's latest report.

U.S. president Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron talked about releasing emergency oil reserves at a meeting on Wednesday in Washington; Reuters reported citing people familiar with the talks.

U.S. economic data showed continued improvement, but with inflationary pressures starting to rise, [the Fed] may not be able to maintain its ultra-accommodative monetary policy for much longer. Today's U.S. CPI data could prove to be the main catalyst for trade if it rises above the key 3% level on a year-over-year basis.

U.S. consumer prices increased 0.4% in February, owing mainly to the surging cost of gas, the Labor Department said Friday. The government also reported that inflation-adjusted hourly wages, on average, fell 0.3% in February as higher prices outstripped a 0.1% gain in earnings.

The output of the nation's factories, mines and utilities was flat in February, the Federal Reserve said Friday. This was well below Wall Street expectations of a 0.4% gain. 

Consumer sentiment in March declines for the first time since August, as rising gasoline prices cause a downturn in expectations, according to a key gauge released on Friday.

Asian

width=150Last week China released several economic reports, all having negative sentiments or lacking strong support. These included, 

China's consumer price index rose at a weaker-than-expected rate of 3.2% in February from the same month a year earlier. The producer price index for February came in at 0%, also weaker than expected and slowing from January's 0.7% year-on-year increase.

China's banking regulator has slightly eased lending requirements at some of the nation's largest banks, hiking the 2012 ratio of funds that they can lend against deposits, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report 

This data culminated over the weekend when China posted a trade deficit of $31.48 billion in February after reporting a $27.28 billion surplus in January, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Saturday.

China's central bank governor says the yuan is approaching fair value against foreign currencies, while also pointing out it is too early to tell if the nation's trade deficit in February is the start of a important trend.

width=150 Overseas economies still have not emerged from a deceleration phase on the whole but some improvement has recently been observed in the U.S. economy and the sluggish European economy has stopped deteriorating, the central bank said. The BoJ kept key rates and also announced it would increase the amount of loans available through its growth supporting facility by 2 trillion yen ($24.35 billion)