SEOUL (Reuters) - South Koreas economic conditions will improve overall next year but the government will maintain policies to re-energise the economy and keep risks under control, its finance minister said on Friday.

Uncertainties over the European and Chinese economies remain, but the global economy will continue to gain momentum while domestic stimulus steps take effect, Minister Choi Kyung-hwan said during a meeting with heads of public-sector research institutes.

(Reporting by Lee Shin-hyung; Writing by Choonsik Yoo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)



Michigans economy will continue to recover at a moderate pace over the next two years, adding 132,600 jobs as overall employment in the state returns to a pre-recession level, according to the newest University of Michigan economic forecast released today.

The report anticipates the states unemployment rate falling from 7.2% this September to 6.7% at the end of 2015, then to 6.3% by late 2016. The rate wont decrease too far, as an improving labor market is expected to entice more people to look for work.

Michigans auto industry is forecast to continue growing, albeit at a more gradual pace, as the recent slowing of hires could indicate that companies are now settling in after several years of workforce expansion.

All of this suggests that the Michigan economy has gone some distance from the dire straits it was in five years ago, at least overall, but there is still a fair ways to go, George Fulton, director of U-Ms Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics, said in a statement.

The generally upbeat forecast for the state follows U-Ms outright bullish predictionfor the US economy that it issued Thursday. The economists foresee the national unemployment rate falling to 5.4% by late 2015 and then 5% by the end of 2016.

However, the new jobs forecast for Michigan -- 59,400 in 2015, 73,200 in 2016 -- would only recoup slightly over half of the jobs that evaporated here between spring 2000 and summer 2009.

The U-M report says Michigan is still among the states with the highest jobless rates, ranks in the bottom third for per capita personal income, and lags in population growth among young and college-educated adults.

The economists also made a prediction for the size of the Detroit Threes forthcoming profit-sharing checks: an average of $6,000 per worker for the early 2015 payouts.

But as vehicle sales cool off, those lump-sum checks could shrink to $1,400 in early 2016.

The last round of profit-sharing checks issued early this year were $7,500 for GM workers, $8,800 for Ford workers and $2,500 for those at Chrysler.

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VLADIMIR PUTIN is not short of problems, many of his own creation. There is the carnage in eastern Ukraine, where he is continuing to stir things up. There are his fraught relations with the West, with even Germany turning against him now. There is an Islamist insurgency on his borders and at home there is grumbling among the growing numbers who doubt the wisdom of his Ukraine policy. But one problem could yet eclipse all these: Russia's wounded economy could fall into a crisis (see article).

Some of Russia's ailments are well known. Its oil-fired economy surged upward on rising energy prices; now that oil has tumbled, from an average of almost $110 a barrel in the first half of the year to below $80, Russia is hurting. More than two-thirds of exports come from energy. The rouble has fallen by 23% in three months. Western sanctions have also caused pain, as bankers have applied the restrictions not just to Mr Putin's cronies, but to a much longer tally of Russian businesses. More generally, years of kleptocracy have had a corrosive effect on the place. Much of the country's wealth has been divided among Mr Putin's friends.



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Underlying inflation pressures rose in October, even as falling gasoline prices kept overall US consumer prices in check, bolstering expectations of a mid-2015 interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve.

Other data on Thursday showed vigor in the economy, with home resales rising at their fastest pace in a year in October and factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region expanding in November to its highest level since December 1993.

The Labor Department said on Thursday its so-called core Consumer Price Index, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.2 percent, the largest increase in five months, after nudging up 0.1 percent in September.

In the 12 months through October, the core CPI rose 1.8 percent after rising 1.7 percent in September, which should ease fears about deflation.

However, falling gasoline prices, which offset rising rent, household furnishings, airline, recreation, new motor vehicles and medical costs, left the overall CPI unchanged last month after a 0.1 percent gain in September.

One number does not change the monetary policy outlook, but the stability in core inflation may help to offset some of the Feds concerns about declining inflation expectations, said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

The Fed targets 2 percent inflation and it tracks an index that is running even lower than the CPI.

Minutes of the Feds Oct. 28-29 meeting published on Wednesday showed most policymakers expect inflation will edge lower in the near-term and subsequently move toward its target.

But there was a bit of concern over falling market-based inflation expectations, with some officials saying they should be monitored for signs of a possible downward shift in longer-term inflation expectations.

The US central bank has kept its short-term interest rate near zero since December 2008. Most economists expect the first interest rate increase sometime in the mid-2015.

HOME SALES RISE

In a separate report, the National Association of Realtors said existing home sales rose 1.5 percent to an annual rate of 5.26 million units, the highest rate since September 2013, a sign that the housing market continued to regain strength.

Data from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank showed its business activity index jumped to 40.8 this month, the highest reading in nearly 21 years, from 20.7 in October.

A reading above zero indicates expansion in the regions manufacturing.

The US economy appears to be doing relatively fine. Its not great but the doomsayers have very little on which to hang their hats, said Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG in New York.

US stocks trimmed losses on the data, while the dollar firmed slightly against the euro and the yen. Prices for US Treasury debt pared gains.

Declining energy and commodity prices against the backdrop of a slowing global economy, and a strengthening dollar are keeping inflation below the Feds target.

Sluggish wage growth, despite a strengthening labor market is also keeping a lid on inflation.

Another report from the Labor Department showed initial claims for unemployment benefits fell 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 291,000 last week, staying below the 300,000 threshold for a 10th straight week.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov in Washington and Ryan Vlastelica New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)