Germany’s bipolar economic data. First, the bad news. Business confidence, as measured by the Ifo Institute’s business climate index, fell in May to its lowest level since November 2014. The services sector, which has been carrying the German economy for some time, saw its largest monthly contraction in more than six years. IHS Markit’s flash Purchasing Managers’ Index readings for May, which were released on Thursday, drew similar conclusions: The manufacturing index ticked down slightly, to 44.3 from 44.4 (a reading below 50 indicates contraction), while the services PMI dropped to 55.0 from 55.7. Now, the good – or at least better – news. Business expectations, according to the Ifo Institute’s findings, were steady, and IHS Markit’s composite PMI, which is calculated differently from the other series, rose slightly to a three-month high. Finally, the German statistics agency released the detailed gross domestic product figures from the first quarter of the year, which showed that household spending grew by 1.2 percent, its strongest growth since 2011, and that net exports made their first positive contribution to GDP growth (0.2 percentage points) since the fourth quarter of 2017. Given the broad range of signals, it’s difficult to draw any new conclusions from this data about the state of the German economy, but it does appear that the storm clouds of late 2018 have passed for now.
Ukraine’s parliament dissolved. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s decree to dissolve parliament and schedule new elections has been published in the government’s official newspaper, Uriadovy Kurier, which under Ukrainian law means it has taken effect. Zelenskiy’s first bill, which he submitted to the Verkhovna Rada on May 22, called for candidates to be chosen entirely by party list, arguing that the current system in which some seats are elected in single-ballot contests fuels corruption. But the Rada refused to consider the proposal, which also would have lowered the entry bar for parties to 3 percent from 5 percent. Lawmakers said the changes would unfairly benefit Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party. Deputies from some political groups consider the decree unconstitutional, and some are preparing to challenge it in court.
Italy and the European Union look poised for another fight, this time over Italy’s fragile Banca Carige. The European Central Bank appointed temporary administrators for Carige in January after shareholders blocked a capital increase, which prompted most of the bank’s board to resign. The administrators have since been seeking a buyer for Carige, but earlier this month, U.S. asset manager BlackRock abandoned rescue efforts. Now the administrators believe liquidation may be necessary within months, according to Reuters. The Italian government, however, would prefer a state rescue, and it has earmarked 1.3 billion euros ($1.44 billion) for just such an effort. The European administrators cannot force Carige to wind down on their own, but they can block the state’s injection of capital on the grounds that it is not enough to qualify for “precautionary recapitalization.”
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party secured a landslide victory in the country’s general elections, winning 300 of the 542 seats contested in the polls.
- The British government pushed the publication of the Brexit withdrawal agreement bill from May 24 to June 3, according to The Guardian. There were reports late Wednesday that Prime Minister Theresa May could be on the verge of stepping down, but the foreign minister and May’s spokesman denied those rumors.
- The co-chair of Iran’s Kurdistan Free Life Party said the party wouldn’t “sit idly by” if the U.S. went to war with Iran. The implication is that if the regime found itself in a war the guerilla group would open up small fronts wherever it could – another subtle indication of Iranian Kurdish cooperation with the U.S.
- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a decision on the next round of tariffs on China – which the White House says could target another $300 billion in Chinese goods – is at least a month away.
- The U.S. issued a warning that China-made unmanned aerial vehicles could pose a security threat to American businesses.
- Italy’s statistics agency projected gross domestic product growth of 0.3 percent for 2019, above the government’s own April forecast of 0.2 percent.
- In France, the IHS Markit purchasing managers’ composite output index hit a six-month high of 51.3 in May, up from 50.1 last month.
- Japanese electronics firm Toshiba said it suspended shipments of certain devices to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, ostensibly because of concerns over violating new U.S. sanctions on Huawei. Panasonic and DHL denied similar reports.
- More than 260 people were arrested in Jakarta during two days of rioting following the certification of President Joko Widodo’s win in last month’s election.
- Libyan National Army leader Khalifa Haftar rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s calls for a cease-fire during a Wednesday meeting in Paris, a French presidential official said.
- The U.S. Navy sailed two more warships through the Taiwan Strait.