The second biggest price tag — £565bn — is
attached to commercial and public buildings, while civil engineering
infrastructure such as roads, railways and pipelines are valued at
£537bn. Manufacturing has remained static since 1998 with a value of
£200bn. The Government is well into the red, with a net worth of -£124bn
after deducting the national debt and other obligations."Economists
use this information to look at wealth, and is particularly interesting
for looking at household wealth," said ONS statistician Ian Hill.
"It helps them make well-founded predictions of what is going to
happen in the future."
DATA BOOSTS HOPE OF US RECOVERY
Figures out of the US showed that the world's largest
economy is well placed to continue its recovery next year. Consumer
spending and sentiment has remained buoyant. The Commerce Department
confirmed that the economy grew at its fastest pace for 20 years during
the third quarter. Although economists warn that it is still early days,
there is growing hope that interest rates and tax cuts have done enough to
turn the US around.
The capture of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and
a small dip in unemployment also has helped convince people that the
outlook is improving. Stock markets have reflected this new-found
optimism, with the US's benchmark Dow Jones Index climbing to a 19-month
high this week. Economic growth in the three months to September was 8.2%,
according to revised figures released by the Commerce Department. The
figure — the best for almost two decades — outstrips the initial
estimates of 7.2%.
While expansion is not expected to continue at this
pace next year, experts still expect it to be much quicker than in Europe.
Research and analysis company the Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts US
growth of 4.2% for next year, up from an initial target of 4%. That's
about double the rate in Europe. US consumer sentiment, though it dropped
slightly this month, was still higher than many analysts had forecast. The
closely watched University of Michigan index had a reading of 92.6 in
December, down from November's 93.7.
DOLLAR SLUMPS TO NEW RECORD LOW
The US dollar is continuing to fall to record new lows
against the euro. The euro had yet again hit a new all time high of
$1.262, as the dollar strayed even further beyond the psychological 1.25
level. Ongoing concerns about the US current account deficit, security,
and the discovery of a case of BSE, or mad-cow disease, have all dented
confidence. Analysts are predicting that the weak dollar trend will
continue into 2004, as investors favour the euro.
BOOM TIME FOR INDIA'S ECONOMY
India's economy has joined the ranks of the world's
fastest growing economies, official figures show. The economy expanded at
a scorching 8.6% between July and September. Experts put the surge down to
the best monsoon in a decade — India is heavily dependent on agriculture
which accounts for 25% of its gross domestic product. The growth put
Asia's third-largest economy firmly on track to achieving the government's
growth target of 7% for the year to March, economists said. DH Panadikar,
economist at Delhi's RPG Foundation said: "It's mainly the
agriculture sector that helped. I expect growth to be around 7.0 to 7.5%
for the full year."
NIKKEI SCORES 24% GAIN FOR 2003
Japan's main stock market has ended 2003 with its first
12-month gain in four years. After a short session on Dec 30, Tokyo's
Nikkei 225 index ended up 1.7% at 10,676.64, boosted by last-minute
euphoria on Wall Street overnight. The Nikkei has risen 24% since the
start of this year. Dec 29 boost to the markets in New York pushed the
technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite — the bellwether of the hi-tech boom
of the 1990s — above 2,000 for its best close since January 2002.
The 1.7% gain was accompanied by a rise of 1.2% for the
blue-chip Dow Jones average, which finished at 10,450. The Dow has itself
risen 25.3% this year with two trading days to go in 2003, although the
Nasdaq's leap of more than 50% puts it in the shade.
TERROR ALERT SHUT ALASKA OIL PORT
A major oil terminal in Alaska was temporarily shut
because of a possible terrorist threat, it has emerged. The transfer of
oil onto tankers at Valdez port, in Prince William Sound, was halted
temporarily. A US Homeland Security spokesman said it was part of "a
continuing effort to ensure the security of our homeland". The
terminal was already subject to restrictions imposed last September,
including a prohibition zone of 200 metres around all tankers.
GERMANY INVITED TO D-DAY EVENTS
France has invited Gerhard Schroeder to ceremonies to
mark the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings — the first time a
German leader has been invited. The move marks the growing ties between
French President Jacques Chirac and the German chancellor. Allied forces
disembarked on the Normandy coast in the first step towards liberating
France from German occupation during World War II. Mr Schroeder has said
he will participate in the ceremonies.
CAUTIOUS IRISH LAUNCH EU PRESIDENCY
Ireland has taken over the European Union's revolving
six-month presidency, inheriting the task after a widely-criticised
Italian spell in charge. Ireland will preside over the EU's biggest round
of expansion yet, when 10 Mediterranean and Eastern European countries
join in May. But it also faces handling the aftermath of the collapse of
talks on Europe's constitution. Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern warned it
would take time to resolve.
MEXICAN CAPITAL HIT BY EARTHQUAKE
A strong earthquake has rocked Mexico City and
Acapulco, although no damage or injuries were immediately reported. City
office workers rushed from swaying buildings, and cars pulled over to the
roadside to ride out the tremors. The quake, at about 1735 local time
(2335GMT), centred in nearby Guerrero state and had a magnitude of 5.3.
About 10,000 people died when Mexico city was hit by a major quake in
1985. The city has implemented some of Latin America's toughest building
CHINA GETS FOREIGN CREDIT CARDS
Citibank and HSBC have become the first foreign banks
to get permission for issuing credit cards in China. Both are now licensed
to give cards that can be settled in either the yuan, China's currency, or
the US dollar. There are more than half a billion cards in circulation in
China, the vast majority of which are debit cards drawing on accounts at
Chinese banks. Less than 1% of them are true credit cards, partly because
of the paucity of reliable data on credit-worthiness.
SRI LANKA TELECOM TO ISSUE BONDS
Sri Lanka Telecom intends to raise more than $50m
(£28m) through a bond issue to widen its mobile phone operations. The
firm, the country's largest listed company, currently has 150,000 users of
its mobile services, 15% of the sector. Shuhei Anan, Sri Lanka Telecom's
chief executive, said the bonds could have a term of five to 10 years.
JAPANESE PM VISITS WAR SHRINE
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has made a
New Year visit to a controversial war shrine. The Yasukuni shrine honours
2.5 million of the country's dead in conflicts since 1853, including a
number of war criminals.
ANGOLA WINS US TRADE PRIVILEGES
President Bush has brought Angola into the group of
African countries which enjoy liberal trade terms with the US. The
decision means Angolan goods can be exported to America under a lower
tariff regime than they faced before. But, the US has dropped Eritrea and
the Central African Republic from the list of countries enjoying these
terms. A White House spokesman said The list reflects the degree to which
countries are progressing toward a market-based economy and the rule of
US ARMY ENDS HALLIBURTON OIL DEAL
The US military says a special energy unit has taking
over supervising oil imports to Iraq, ending a controversial Pentagon deal
with Halliburton. The move comes after an official report saying a
Halliburton subsidiary, which has close links to the White House, may have
overcharged for fuel deliveries.
HOUSE PRICES DEFY SLUMP FORECASTS
House prices rose 1.5% in December, taking the average
rise in house prices over the last year to more than 15%. The Nationwide's
latest figures appear to have proven wrong those pundits who had predicted
a sharp correction in prices during the past year. The North of England
did best — up by nearly a third on 2002 followed by Wales up by a
VODACOM'S $600M NIGERIAN PLEDGE
Vodacom, South Africa's leading mobile phone operator,
has pledged to invest some $600m in Nigerian number two operator Econet
AUSTRALIA'S 'BEEF BOOST FROM BSE'
Australian beef exporters could benefit from the
suspected BSE case in the US, an Australian government minister said.
According to Agriculture Minister Warren Truss, the widespread bans gave
producers a golden export opportunity. So far, more than two dozen
countries have banned US beef markets where Australia and the US go
YUKOS SADDLED WITH $3BN TAX BILL
Embattled Russian oil giant Yukos owes $3.3bn in back
taxes and fines, the Russian tax ministry says. The ministry accused the
firm of evading taxes by setting up a web of affiliated firms. Yukos'
largest shareholder and former boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has himself
been in jail on tax fraud charges since being arrested in October.
UK SHOPPERS GAIN SPENDING CONFIDENCE
UK consumer confidence improved in December after
seeing a sharp fall the month before.Figures from research firm Martin
Hamblin GfK showed consumer confidence rose to -5 this month. It followed
a sharp fall to -6 in November, after the Bank of England raised rates for
the first time in almost four years. The group said festive cheer and
national rugby celebrations were behind the improvement.
GERMANS STAY AWAY FROM THE SHOPS
Germans are prolonging their caution about spending
despite tax cuts and the Christmas season, new figures indicate. According
to the German retailers' federation, HDE, Christmas sales were down 3-4%
on the previous year. The bad news accompanies a survey of 2,000 consumers
by market research firm GfK, which suggests shoppers are no more
optimistic about 2004.
UK'S DEPRIVED AREAS OFFER PROFITS
The UK government is hoping to convince businesses and
investors that some of the country's most run-down areas can help boost
their profits. At a conference in London next month, companies will be
invited to meet local authorities and community groups to see how they can
best work together. Executives from firms including John Lewis and
Cadbury, meanwhile, will visit some of the UK's worst hit spots. New
York's Harlem neighbourhood has benefited from a similar programme.
CONSUMER DEBT WORRY HITS S KOREA
Growing concern over household debt and the country's
troubled credit card industry is now impeding South Korea's economic
recovery, official data shows. Industrial output dropped 0.3% in November
despite strong exports, after the figure was hit by sharp falls in
domestic spending and investment. The South Korean National Statistical
Office (NSO) described the domestic economic situation as "lacklustre".