INTERNATIONAL

 

Sep 23 - 29, 2002

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. INDUSTRY

3. FINANCE

4. POLICY

5. TRADE

6. GULF

 

IMF WARNING ON WORLD ECONOMY

The world economy is facing more risks than it did a few months ago, according to the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But Horst Koehler said the IMF still expected the world recovery to continue.
He made his comments in a speech in advance of the IMF's annual meeting in Washington next week.

 

He said that the US should avoid falling back into chronic overspending.

And he warned that Europe and Japan should do more to bolster their economic growth prospects.

"The global economy has shown remarkable resilience in the face of multiple shocks over the past two years," Mr Koehler said.

"Nevertheless, we need to be concerned about the strength and durability of the ongoing economic recovery, and the stability of the international financial system," he added.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations he said: "Risks to the global economic outlook today are clearly tilted more to the downside than they were a few months ago.

"On balance, we do still expect that the recovery will continue," he added.

Mr Koehler said the heightened risks included the continued fallout from the collapse of the equity bubble, corporate scandals that have undermined investor confidence, crises in some emerging economies such as Brazil and Argentina, regional political tensions and volatility in world oil prices.

He said it was crucial for leading economies to take steps to boost confidence, including steps to improve accounting standards and stamp out corporate corruption.

WORLD INVESTMENT FALLS BY HALF

Cross-border investment plummeted by more than 50% in 2001, the first fall in a decade and the worst for 30 years.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), foreign direct investment (FDI) was one of the main casualties of the global slowdown last year.

Among developing countries, again Africa found itself last in line. Although the overall investment in the continent's 34 states classed as least developed countries rose $600m to $4.2bn, the lion's share went to just three of them: oil-rich Angola, Sudan and Mozambique.

Despite the fall in overall investment, Unctad said the influence of transnational corporations was continuing to grow.

Foreign affiliates now account for one-tenth of world GDP and one-third of world exports, the agency's World Investment Report said.

Underlying the steady growth of the multinational was the global push towards privatisation and rapid technological change. "These driving forces are long-term in nature," it said.

Unctad's figures show the slide in FDI from a peak in 2000 to $753bn in 2001 was even worse than the 40% slide it predicted in January.

The year produced only 113 cross-border mergers worth more than $1bn, down from 175 in 2000.

And the slide shows no signs of abating quite yet. The first seven months of 2002 produced a 40% fall in cross-border mergers and acquisitions over the same period of 2001.

The steep fall meant that developed countries actually fared worse than the average, nursing a fall of 59%.

JAPAN PREPARES STIMULUS PACKAGE

Japan is to draw up tax reform plans which could deliver massive tax cuts, and may stimulate the stagnant economy.

Up to 1.5 trillion yen (8bn; $12bn) in real tax cuts could result, according to Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa.

The country's central bank has also said it will buy shares from Japan's troubled banks in a move to avoid a financial meltdown.

But while the news may please the Japanese public, it has raised concerns about Japan's efforts to reduce its massive public debts.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's advisers have proposed that he should order tax cuts of 2.5 trillion yen, or 0.5% of the country's total output, or gross domestic product.

The finance ministry favours a smaller cut.

GLOBAL MARKET FALLS BUFFET ASIA

Stock markets in Asia have continued the wave of falls across the globe, after Wall Street dropped to near five-year lows on a profit warning from computer giant EDS.

Japan's Nikkei 225 had lost 1.6%, or 153.01 points, to 9,516.61, wiping out the gains made after the Bank of Japan made the surprise announcement on Wednesday that it would buy shares directly from banks to prop up the financial system.

In Hong Kong the Hang Seng index was down 2% at 9,236.62, near 12-month lows, in Singapore the Strait Times fell 1.6% to 1415, and other regional markets also showed falls.

In London on Thursday, the FTSE 100 index came to within four points of its lowest level for six years before recovering slightly to close down 52 points at 3,814.

Paris fell 2.5% to end at 2,927 points, its lowest closing level since January 1998, and in Frankfurt the Dax index dropped to a new five-year low, falling 3.76% to 3,007.

Shares in New York fell heavily just before the end of trading on Thursday to close 230 points lower, or 2.8%, at 7,942 it last closed below 8,000 in July.

IVORY COAST MUTINY 'OVER'

The Prime Minister of Ivory Coast, Pascal Affi Nguessan, has said that Thursday's coup attempt by rebel soldiers was a failure.

He called on all Ivorians to return to work after a day of fighting in which dozens of people were killed.

State television showed the body of the man the government has blamed for the uprising General Robert Guei who three years ago seized power in a coup.

But hundreds of rebels are still reported to be holding out in Ivory Coast's second biggest city, Bouake, and the northern city of Korhogo.

CASPIAN OIL PROJECT FORGES AHEAD

Construction work has officially been launched on a multi-billion-dollar pipeline to take Caspian Sea oil from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia.

It is the first major pipeline from the vast Caspian oilfields to bypass Russian territory.

The Turkish and Georgian presidents, along with their Azeri counterpart, took part in a ceremony to lay the inaugural section of the pipeline at the Sangachal terminal, near the Azeri capital, Baku.

"This project guarantees peace, security and stability in the region, and still further unites three countries and three peoples", Azerbaijan's President Haidar Aliev said.

FRENCH FOOD AGENCY BACKS BRITISH BEEF

France's food safety agency has announced it is in favour of lifting the country's ban on British beef.

The report could pave the way for the lifting of the French embargo, imposed amid concern over BSE, the human form of mad cow disease.

France faces a daily fine of 100,000 for continuing its embargo three years after a European Union ruling that British beef no longer carried the risk of mad cow disease.

The French government is likely to follow its national food safety agency AFFSA's advice when deciding whether or not to lift its ban.

ARGENTINA DELAYS $3BN LOAN REPAYMENT

Argentina has been told it can delay a $2.8bn (1.8bn) loan repayment for one year.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to defer the payment, due on 9 September, and said the situation in Argentina remained "very difficult". It is the second time in three months that the loan has been extended.

CITIGROUP PAYS COMPENSATION

The US banking giant Citigroup has agreed to pay a record penalty to settle charges that it engaged in abusive lending practices.

It will pay $215m (138m) to customers as part of an agreement reached with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

And Citigroup will hand over a further $25m in connection with a separate legal case.

BRAZIL AND ARGENTINA DAMN IMF

Senior political figures in Argentina and Brazil have criticised the International Monetary Fund's policies for their countries.

An Argentine cabinet minister has said citizens are "sick and tired" of IMF officials criticising government policies aimed at pulling the nation out of a four-year recession.

H&M FASHIONS PROFIT JUMP

Profits at Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz have jumped 53% in the third quarter. H&M reported a pre-tax profit of 1.9bn Swedish kronor($204m; 132m) to the end of August as sales increased 15% to 12.6bn kronor.

UNIONS TO TACKLE BLAIR ON PRIVATISATION

The unions and the government are heading for a major confrontation over privatisation at the Labour Party conference.

Three powerful unions are planning to table motions calling for a moratorium on any further private sector investment in public services.

The leader of the TUC's largest union, Unison, told BBC Radio 4's programme that the private finance initiative was a waste of time and money.

RETAIL BOUNCE FAILS TO LIFT FACTORY GLOOM

British retail sales grew more strongly than expected last month, easing fears of a downturn in consumer spending.

Sales volumes grew by 0.6% in August compared with July, taking the annual growth rate up to 5%, the Office for National Statistics said.

UK PLC 'AGAINST EARLY EURO ENTRY'

Just one British firm in five wants the government to adopt the euro during the current parliament, according to a new survey from pollsters ICM.

The survey, which comes on the tenth anniversary of the pound's ejection from the European exchange rate mechanism, suggests that Prime Minister Tony Blair may find it more difficult than expected to persuade businesses to embrace the single currency.

SENIOR BANKER WARNS ON EURO RATE

Andrew Crockett, a strong candidate to become the next governor of the Bank of England, has cautioned that competitiveness could be hit if the UK joins the euro at too high an exchange rate.

Mr Crockett was giving a speech to mark the 10th anniversary of sterling's exit from Europe's exchange rate mechanism, ERM.

BRAZIL LEAVES INTEREST RATES UNCHANGED

Brazil's Central Bank has said it will leave interest rates unchanged at 18% until after the forthcoming presidential election, following fresh concerns over the country's economy.

The bank said the outlook was still one of "volatility and uncertainty" as the left-wing candidate Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva surged ahead in opinion polls.

Despite a $30.4bn loan from the International Monetary Fund in August, Brazil is still struggling under the weight of its $260bn debt.

SWISS LIFE SLUMPS TO RECORD LOSS

Swiss Life said it made a loss for the six months was 386m Swiss (166m; $256m) francs, one-third worse than even the most pessimistic predictions, and warned that it was unable to make a forecast for the full year.

ZIMBABWE INFLATION SKYROCKETS

Zimbabwe's annual rate of inflation leapt to a record high last month as the country's economic situation continued to deteriorate.

The annual rate of inflation rose to 135.1% in August from 123.5% in July, according to the latest figures from Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office.

The surge in inflation reflects high levels of debt-fuelled government spending as economic output falters due to a combination of drought and political unrest.

EUROPE WARNS UK OVER BOOZE CRUISERS

The European Commission has attacked the British Government over its treatment of cross-Channel shoppers.

It said it still had concerns about heavy-handed tactics employed by UK Customs officials towards people bringing back cheap alcohol and cigarettes from the Continent.

BANK UNITED BEHIND RATE FREEZE

The Bank of England's interest rate setting body considered the possibility of cutting borrowing costs at its monthly meeting for September, minutes have shown.

In the end, the eight members of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) who were present voted in favour of keeping UK rates at their current 38-year low of 4%.

UK INFLATION FALLS

Inflation in the UK fell in August, suggesting that interest rates will stay on hold.

The underlying annual rate of inflation fell by 0.1 points to 1.9%, the Office for National Statistics said.

And the headline rate which includes mortgage interest payments also fell by 0.1 points to 1.4%.

The price of clothes and shoes were the main reason for the slide in inflation.

EURO CATCHES ON IN RUSSIA

In Moscow Russians are buying more euros than dollars for the first time since the new European currency became available, according to the central bank.

The swing may signal the weakening grip in Russia of the US currency which has dominated the economy here for most of the past decade.

It comes after a 15% fall of the dollar against the euro this year. Imports of euros by Russian banks had doubled year on year in June and July, said the bank.

Over $700m-worth of euros were imported in July, compared with just $573m in US

THAILAND PREDICTS FAST GROWTH

Thai economy Thailand is set to make 2002 a boom year despite the continuing gloom in the world economy, the government's top advisers say.

The country's official think tank, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), said on Monday that growth for the year will be between 4% and 4.5%, more than double 2001's 1.8% expansion.