INTERNATIONAL

 

Dec 02 -Dec 15, 2002

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. INDUSTRY

3. FINANCE

4. POLICY

5. TRADE

6. GULF

 

JAPAN'S ECONOMIC WOES CONTINUE

Fears that the Japanese economy is heading back into recession have increased following the release of a dismal set of economic figures.Japan's jobless rate increased last month to 5.5%, up from September's 5.4% and matching the post-World War II high seen in December last year.Industrial output fell by 0.3% in October, the second month in a row that the measure has fallen, while households spending fell by 0.7% compared with October last year.

 

Deflation retained its hold over the economy, with retail prices falling for the 37th month in row.

"This clearly illustrates that the domestic economy is falling into a deep deflationary phase," said Shinichi Sato, fixed income strategist at Mitsubishi Securities.

"(The industrial output) results were far worse than our expectation of plus 0.5% and also much lower than the original (government) forecast of plus 1.2%," he said.

September fall in industrial output had been the first drop for three months, and most analysts had expected output to recover in October.

Output has suffered from the sluggish growth in the US, Japan's biggest export market.

While exports rose by 8.5% in October from the previous month, analysts said the jump was down to one-off factors.

The Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) lowered its outlook for industrial output saying it would remain flat.

METI said manufacturers' output would fall by 1% this month, but rise 0.6% in December.

EU SET TO REFORM BUDGET RULES (2ND LEAD)

The European Commission has suggested major changes to the Growth and Stability Pact which underpins the euro, after members were given "early warnings" over breaches.

The global economic slowdown has led countries to push the limits of the pact, which even Commission president Romano Prodi has described as "stupid".

The key proposal involves allowing countries in a sound overall financial position to run deficits to fund long-term spending, but also introduces new disciplinary measures.

So far, Commission warnings have only been applicable to countries who do not keep their public deficit below 3% of GDP.

Germany has been ticked off because its deficit is expected to be above 3% this year, while France was given an "early warning" because of fears it might breach the limit too.

Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes said the reforms were not serious enough to warrant renegotiating EU treaties.

The Commission hopes the proposals will be agreed by EU leaders at a Brussels summit in March.

The proposals would give more leeway to countries that have low debt to borrow to finance investment or reforms.

But there would also stricter action, with fines as the ultimate sanction, against countries which do not make enough progress in cutting debt.

Fines have so far only been applied to budget deficits.

While Italy and Greece are the biggest concern, both countries have committed themselves to debt reduction, the Commission said.

US ECONOMIC RECOVERY CONTINUES (BOX)

The US economy has shown signs of renewed strength, with the number of jobless falling, consumer spending outstripping earnings and strong demand for manufactured goods.

The deluge of figures pushed US share prices higher, in anticipation of an economic rebound.

Total jobless claims dropped for the second consecutive week to 364,000, their lowest level in nearly two years, the Labor Department said.

Personal spending was higher than income growth for the first time since the summer, the Commerce Department said.

Durable goods orders typically cars, fridges, washing machines and other such items surged 2.8% in October from September, the government added, the first rise in three months.

UK GROWTH 'STRONGER THAN EXPECTED'

The UK economy grew faster than originally thought between July and September, lifted by a buoyant service sector.

The Office for National Statistics said it had revised its estimate of economic expansion during the period from 0.7% to 0.8%, the UK's fastest quarterly growth rate in more than two years.

The higher quarterly figure pushed annual growth for the three months to September to 1.8%, up from an initial reading of 1.7%.

The upwards revision took forecasters by surprise, with most City analysts predicting no change.

IMF WARNS EUROPE AND JAPAN ON GROWTH

The US economic recovery is not as strong as expected but it is Europe and Japan that need to do more to boost world economic growth, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF's first deputy managing director Anne Krueger made the comments in India during a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 rich and poor countries.

Ms Krueger said the US upswing was "not quite as strong as people had expected".

But she reserved her sternest words of warning for Europe and Japan.

The prospects for Europe were "not that good" and economic forecasts were falling almost monthly "as numbers come in", she said.

JAPAN STOCKS SURGE

The Japanese stock market has soared to its highest level in two months ahead of the government's planned announcement of economic reforms.

The Nikkei index of leading Japanese shares gained 3.4% to close up 300.90 points at 9,176.78 points.

US shares gained sharply. The Dow Jones index of leading US shares gained 2.9% to close up 255.26 points at 8,931.68 while the technology weighted Nasdaq index rose 3%, or 43.51 points, to close at 1,487.94.

WTO STAFF CLAIM TRADE EXPLOITATION

Industrial action by staff over pay and resources at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has begun to affect its activities and could threaten the next round of talks.

"I don't think the organisation will grind to a halt, but the level output to which people are accustomed is severely reduced," Keith Rockwell, WTO spokesman told.

The 145 staff have not had a substantive wage rise in 12 years, and have only had an 8% increase in operational funding despite a 30% increase in their work load.

APPLE PRICES 'SET TO SOAR'

A global apple shortage is looming after bad weather has decimated orchards in the US, Australia and New Zealand, according to a report in the South African newspaper Business Day.

"Consumers are going to be paying noticeably more for apples next year," Kobus du Preez, pack-house manager at Maluti Fruit Cooperative in Free State in South Africa told the paper.

The shortage should send South African apple exports soaring in 2003, Mr du Preez predicted.

"It is almost certain that South Africa will see exports rise markedly, perhaps as much as 20%," Mr du Preez was quoted as saying.

NIGERIA STRIVES TO SOLVE DEBT CRISIS

Nigeria is seeking to buy back some of its commercial debts, in an attempt to reduce its overall debt burden.

The country has debts of more than $28bn ($18.02bn) owed to foreign governments grouped together in the Paris Club.

Talks with these lenders to try and reduce the amount owing have stalled over concerns of economic mismanagement.

But Nigeria is now attempting to buy back about $2bn of freely-traded debt owed to commercial investors.

As the commercial debt is trading at well below its original value, the government will only have to pay $470m.

FIJI TO PRIVATISE SUGAR MILLS

The Fijian government has announced a radical restructuring of its 120-year-old, state-controlled sugar industry, transferring its sugar mills into private hands and predicting job cuts.

TURKEY SET FOR SWEEPING REFORMS

The leader of Turkey's largest political party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said that the government is planning a major revision of the constitution to bring it into line with European Union political norms.

Mr Erdogan said that the laws regulating the electoral system governing political parties and regulating freedom of expression would be changed.

He spoke from Paris, which was part of his second tour of European capitals since his party swept to power just under a month ago.

CHANCELLOR HITS BACK AT BUDGET CRITICS

Chancellor Gordon Brown is to launch a defence of his handling of the economy after critics attacked plans to borrow more than 100bn over the next five years.

Mr Brown will go on the offensive in an effort to rebuff claims the proposals endanger his reputation of caution and "prudence".

 

NEW BOSS FOR BANK OF ENGLAND

The next governor of the Bank of England is to be Mervyn King, the current deputy governor, who will step into the job next summer.

The announcement was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown in his pre-Budget report.

AUSTRALIAN GROWTH HIT BY DROUGHT

The drought devastating crops across Australia is going to cut into the country's recent stellar economic performance, the government's finance chief has told parliament.

In his annual mid-year review, Treasurer Peter Costello said growth in 2002-3 was likely to be 3%, not the 3.75% predicted in May.

LABOUR BLAMED AFTER SONY QUITS INDONESIA

The Indonesian government has blamed the country's labour laws for pushing Sony to shut down its audio equipment factory in the country, according to a report in Bisnis Indonesia.

According to the newspaper, Industry and Trade Minister Rini Suwandi believed the country's employment legislation allowed workers too much freedom hold demonstrations and voice protests.

Ms Suwandi believed the government's challenge now would be to change the laws to prevent other international firms from pulling out of the country.

ECUADOR LOOKS TO RENEW IMF TIES

Ecuador's president-elect Lucio Gutierrez and incumbent Gustavo Noboa have agreed to restart talks with the International Monetary Fund for a stand-by loan.

Two months ago, the Noboa administration broke off negotiations with the IMF, complaining the loan conditions were too stringent.

CZECH TELECOM PRIVATISATION COLLAPSES

Eastern Europe's largest privatisation this year, the 1.82bn euro (1.16bn; $1.8bn) sale of the Czech Republic's fixed-line telecoms operator, has collapsed.

GERMAN CONFIDENCE FALLS AGAIN

German business confidence has slipped for the sixth consecutive month in November as the government plans to raise taxes and cut spending.

The Ifo economic institute said western German index fell to 87.3 from 87.7 in October, which was above analysts forecasts of a decline to 86.8.

The continuing fall in sentiment comes as the German government, facing weak growth and a widening budget deficit, has proposed increasing taxes and social contributions, as well as cutting spending.

FRENCH PRIVATISATION ROW EXPLODES

France has been brought to a standstill by public sector strikes opposing the new government's privatisation plans, which could cause mass redundancies and the loss of employee benefits.

The government wants to use the money from privatisation to cuts taxes and reduce spending, something promised by the conservative Jean-Pierre Raffarin, before being elected prime minister in June.

US CALLS FOR TARIFF-FREE WORLD

The US government has called for the elimination of all tariffs on manufactured goods under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The plan would lead to the elimination of all tariffs on industrial and consumer goods by 2015 in an attempt to jump-start global trade talks.

The proposal, unveiled by US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, would eliminate tariffs on $6 trillion (3,870bn) worth of non-farm goods.

But some developing countries, like India and Brazil, are worried that the plans could put severe pressure on their own manufacturing sector, before it was ready to face the force of full global competition.

FORD BOSS CALLS FOR EURO REFERENDUM

One of the Ford Motor Company's senior bosses has called on the British government to hold a euro referendum.

Sir Nicholas Scheele, Ford's president and chief operating officer warned that companies were being damaged by the UK's failure to sign up to the single currency.

SRI LANKA APPEALS FOR ECONOMIC SUPPORT

The Sri Lankan Government and opposition Tamil Tigers have appealed for investment as donors gather in Norway for peace talks to end nearly two decades of civil war.

In an unprecedented move, the two sides issued a joint statement calling for international help as more than 20 countries including the US and Britain prepared to meet in Oslo.