World economy in brief

A look at economic developments and stock market activity around the world Wednesday:

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s industrial production plunged 17 percent last month compared with a year earlier. But officials say production managed to tick up 1.8 percent in February from January. The government’s IBGE statistics agency says in a report that production in the auto sector buoyed overall industrial output.

FRANKFURT – Orders for German machinery and factory equipment slumped 49 percent in February, the VDMA industry association said as it slashed its full-year production forecast. The Frankfurt-based VDMA said it now expects machinery production and factory building to decline 10 percent to 20 percent during the year, compared with the previously forecast 7 percent. A decline in that range would mark the sharpest decrease since 1993 when output fell 12 percent.

STOCKHOLM – Sweden’s economy is expected to shrink 4.2 percent this year, resulting in soaring unemployment and budget deficits in the wake of the global financial crisis, the government said in a gloomy forecast. Unemployment will reach 8.9 percent this year and rise to nearly 12 percent in 2011, according to the center-right government’s economic forecast. The jobless rate was 8 percent in February.

TOKYO – Pummeled by an unprecedented slump in global demand, confidence at major Japanese manufacturers has fallen to an all-time low, a key central bank survey showed. But the worst may be over for big exporters who plan to boost output this spring amid slimmer stockpiles and nascent expectations for a recovery in overseas economies. Japan stocks staged a strong rebound, as exporters surged to open the new fiscal year with a bang. The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average rose 242.38 points, or 3 percent, to 8,351.91. The broader Topix index gained 2.6 percent to 793.82. Investors poured into shares of automakers and tech firms, which benefited from a robust dollar against yen, as well as budding optimism about the new business year.

LONDON – European and U.S. stock markets pushed higher after a batch of surveys indicated that the world’s largest economy may be beginning to show some signs of a recovery. ISM’s manufacturing index rose to a four-month high of 36.3 last month from 35.8 in February. Though any reading below 50 indicates a contraction, any rise toward the 50 level indicates the scale of the contraction is less marked. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 29.47 points, or 0.8 percent, at 3,955.61, while Germany’s DAX rose 46.31 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,131.07. The CAC-40 in France rose 32.27 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,839.61.

BEIJING – The contraction in China’s manufacturing worsened in March as the global downturn battered trade, data showed, and President Hu Jintao said problems due to the crisis are growing as he left for a London economic summit. The monthly purchasing managers index by brokerage CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets showed manufacturing shrank for an eighth month in March. Based on a survey of some 400 companies, the index fell to 44.8, down from February’s 45.1, on a scale where numbers below 50 show activity is shrinking.

SHANGHAI – China’s benchmark stock index rose to a seven-month high as coal miners, metals suppliers and real estate developers rose on hopes for an economic recovery by year-end. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbed 34.8 points, or 1.5 percent, to close at 2,408.02. The Shenzhen Composite Index for China’s smaller second exchange gained 1.9 percent to 798.74.

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