The group's survey of 6,149 firms found the balance of
manufacturers reporting a rise in export sales rose to 19%, up from 17% in
the last three months of 2003.
David Kern, BCC chief economist, admitted that the Bank
of England would have to raise interest rates in future if the recovery
But he added: "We urge them to maintain a cautious
stance, taking fully into account the problems facing the manufacturing
sector and the strength of sterling."
The upbeat picture painted by the BCC's survey
contrasts sharply with official figures released by the Office for
National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month.
The ONS figures showed that manufacturing output fell
by 0.6% during February.
CHINA'S BOOM FUELS FEARS OF SLUMP
China's economy has recorded another quarter of rapid
growth, fuelling fears of unstable overheating last week.
Gross domestic product was up 9.7% year on year in the
first quarter of 2004, while investment in fixed assets soared by 43%.
While such figures look only positive, economists worry
that unchecked growth could topple over into a slump, with an effect on
the rest of Asia.
The Chinese Government has moved to play down such
In particular, it has sought to calm runaway bank
lending, the source of much speculative financing, especially in the
The investment figure, which at least partly reflects
spending on housing and other construction, is seen as a cause for
"The risks are that investment spending will
remain strong for the next six months at least," said JP Morgan
economist Ben Simpfendorfer.
"The faster it grows, the higher it rises, the
further it has to fall, eventually.
"It simply raises the risk of a correction further
down the track."
Earlier, the State Council, or cabinet, vowed again to
take "resolute steps" to smooth out any economic boom-and-bust
It had been expected that the latest batch of economic
data would show some slowing, as a sluggish global economy bites into
demand for China's exports.
But there has been little sign of that.
Factory output was 19% higher in March than a year
earlier, and exports were 43% higher.
Inflation, a key indicator of overheating, remains
modest. The consumer-price index was up just 2.8% year on year in the
BANGLADESH TO TRIPLE FARM SUBSIDIES
The Bangladesh government plans to triple subsidies for
farmers to $152m (£85m) to boost farm production.
Agriculture accounts for around 30% of the country's
total economic output.
A reminder of the vulnerability of the industry came
the day of the announcement, when a tornado ripped through farming
villages in the north.
Population is increasing rapidly, but with decreasing
amounts of arable land the government needs the farming sector to become
Finance Secretary Zakir Ahmed Khan said the subsidies
would help offset the higher costs of irrigation and seeds.
To maintain economic growth in Bangladesh the country
relies heavily on agriculture.
"We have no option but to increase crop
production," Mr Khan said, pointing out that better irrigation would
help farmers grow more with the land available.
Severe environmental challenges exacerbate the problems
Bangladeshi farmers face, such as monsoon rains which can leave hundreds
of thousands homeless and farm land unusable.
Economists report that to address widespread poverty,
which affects more than half of its 130 million people, economic growth
needs to be at least 7%.
Forecasts show growth is likely to miss this target in
2003-04, reaching only 5.5% — although that outstrips the average of 5%
over the past decade.
Farmers recently welcomed a 2% cut in interest rates on
farm loans to 8% and a waiver on interest owing to each farmer of 5,000
taka ($85; £48).
BANGLADESH STORM TOLL RISES
Relief operations are under way in northern Bangladesh
after tornadoes left at least 66 people dead and about 1,000 injured.
Medical teams have also been sent to Mymensingh and
Netrokona districts amid fears the number of dead could rise further.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and opposition leader Sheikh
Hasina have also visited the affected areas. On April 14 storm hit at
least 12 villages in the two districts.
Thousands of people have been left homeless as their
houses were blown away by the strong winds and rains.
POLL BUOYS S KOREA ECONOMIC HOPES
The South Korean election spells an end to political
uncertainty and a return to economic stability, the government has said.
Voters have given a majority in the National Assembly
to the liberal Uri party, which supports embattled President Roh Moo-hyun.
"This will greatly help the economy's
international credibility," said Finance Minister Lee Hun-Jai.
"The government will strive to accelerate
The end of the elections, he said, meant both the
government and the public could concentrate on the economy once again.
Investors did not seem quite so certain: South Korean
shares fell by 1% after the poll results.
But most analysts said the longer-term economic effects
would be positive, if parliamentary support helps shore up Mr Roh.
CUBA SIGNS $13M IN US FOOD DEALS
Cuba has signed contracts for food and farm goods with
the United States worth over $13m (£7m).
About 300 US farming representatives are visiting
Havana, hoping to make sales worth some $100m (£55m) during the three-day
The four-decade long trade embargo between the US and
Cuba has an exception which allows commercial sales of American farm
The meeting is organised by the Cuban government food
import firm Alimport.
The biggest contract announced on the first day of the
meeting, was for $8.9m (£4.9m) worth of corn with Archer Daniels Midland
of Decatur, in Illinois.
Since 2000, when Cuba started to take advantage of the
exceptional rule in the US trade embargo, farm product contracts worth
$430m excluding costs have been signed, according to the US-Cuba Trade and
JAPAN ECONOMIC OUTLOOK IMPROVES
The Japanese central bank has issued an upbeat report
on the economy, lifting hopes of a sustainable recovery.
The Bank of Japan said on April 16 the economy was
improving "gradually," amid strengthening domestic demand and
rising corporate profits.
The report is the latest in a series of signals that
Japan may be emerging from a decade-long period of stagnation.
But the Bank said it was keeping interest rates on hold
at zero in order to stimulate the economy.
It added that deflation — where falling prices curb
consumer spending, slowing economic growth — had not yet been defeated.
"Consumer prices are projected to continue falling
slightly on a year-on-year basis," the Bank said.
Japan's economic prospects have brightened in recent
months, with a stable yen exchange rate supporting an export boom.
The Bank said the benefits of the export boom had begun
to spill over into the wider economy.
FRANCE BACKS BROWN'S AID PROJECT
France is backing UK Chancellor Gordon Brown's call for
global aid to be doubled to $100bn (£54bn) a year.
"What will weigh more on... our economies?"
said French Finance Minister Nicholas Sarkozy.
"Terrorism, poverty, despair - or a possible tax
that pushes back poverty, despair and hence terrorism?"
Mr Brown secured the backing of Mr Sarkozy — but not
yet that of Germany or the US — at a summit in Paris attended by
ministers from 56 nations.
The chancellor called for world leaders to "accept
the challenge for our time and for our generation" and said they
should have "the strength together to fight poverty, remove
destitution, end illiteracy, and cure disease in the developing
He added: "I propose we all commit ourselves, as
partners together, to work to make the radical changes required."
CHINA FEARS BOOM AND BUST CYCLE
The Chinese government has issued a new warning that
too much bank lending for real estate and certain industrial projects
could lead to supply gluts and trigger a financial crisis.
The country's central bank, the People's Bank of China,
has taken fresh measures to try to curb the amount of money that Chinese
banks are lending.
The move comes after Premier Wen Jiabao warned last
month of the need to avoid a boom and bust cycle.
All over China, gleaming new towers of steel and
concrete are going up, bridges and roads are mushrooming, and factories
are springing up.
ANC SET TO CELEBRATE ELECTION WIN
South Africa's ruling African National Congress is
heading for its biggest election victory, 10 years on from the end of
With 90% of polling districts now accounted for, the
ANC has 70% of the vote with the opposition Democratic Alliance in second
place with 13%.
Later on, President Thabo Mbeki is due to address
supporters at a huge celebration party in Johannesburg.
For the first time the ANC is set for a two-thirds
Roaring demand for computer chips, flat screens and
mobile phones has seen profits treble at Samsung, Asia's biggest
The Korean firm earned 3.1 trillion won (£1.5bn;
$2.7bn) in the three months to end-March, well ahead of forecasts.
UK UNEMPLOYMENT AT 20-YEAR LOW
UK unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in 20
years, down another 33,000 to just 1.43 million in the three months to
The so-called ILO rate of unemployment, the
government's preferred measure, now stands at 4.8%.
And the number claiming jobseekers allowance in March
also fell, down 4,200 people to 882,200.
INDIA'S WIPRO JOINS THE $1BN CLUB
Wipro, India's number-three software exporter, has
joined rival Infosys in smashing through the $1bn sales mark for the 2003
Wipro had revenues of $1.4bn ($750m) in the year to
March, a 49% jump on the previous year.
IBM'S PROFITS INCREASE AGAIN
IBM has seen its profits grow for the fifth quarter in
succession. The company known as "Big Blue" made a $1.6bn
(£893m) profit in the first quarter of 2004, compared to $1.38bn for the
same period last year.
Its quarterly revenue in turn rose by 11% to $22.2bn,
from $20.1bn for the first quarter of 2003.
US AIRLINES COMPLAIN AT FUEL COST
US airlines Continental and Southwest have each used
their first quarter results to complain about the high cost of fuel.
Continental, America's fifth largest airline, lost
$124m (£70m) in the three months to March, down from $221m in the same
period in 2003.
Southwest, meanwhile, scored a profit of $26m for its
first quarter, a slight increase on $24m a year earlier.
CITIGROUP REPORTS RECORD PROFITS
Citigroup has announced its highest quarterly profit.
The company, the world's largest financial services group, made net
earnings of $5.27bn (£2.96bn) in the first three months of 2004.
The figure is a 29% increase on the $4.1bn made in the
same period last year, and ahead of analyst expectations.
SUN REPORTS LOSS
Software and computer server maker Sun Microsystems has
as expected — made a substantial third-quarter loss.
The Californian company made a net loss of $760m
(£424m) in the three months to March, compared with a $4m profit the same
time last year.
Sun's revenue fell for the 12th quarter in succession,
falling to $2.65bn from $2.79bn.
US PLEDGES AID FOR UNITED CYPRUS
The United States has pledged $400 million in aid to
support a UN plan to end the 30-year division of Cyprus.
But it stressed the money will only be paid if both
Greek and Turkish Cypriots back the UN peace plan in referendums on April
Thirty nations and organisations are currently
attending a pre-donors' conference in Brussels to calculate the costs of
the UN plan.
The EU is expected to announce plans for about $385
million in aid.
TENDER LAUNCHED FOR SICILY BRIDGE
Italy has launched a tender for construction of a
long-awaited bridge linking Sicily with mainland Italy, Italian television
According to state TV channel Rai Uno, prospective
contractors have until 13 July to submit their bids.
Construction of the bridge expected to cost 4.6bn euros
($5.5bn; £3.1bn) — will begin in late 2005 and take more than six
years, the report said.
The toll for cars using the 3.6 kilometre bridge will
be 9.5-16 euros.
OXFAM SLAMS EUROPEAN SUGAR TARIFF
Oxfam has called for an end to guaranteed prices for
European sugar producers because it says the practice is unfair to poorer
The development charity has criticised the European
Union's sugar industry for subsidising its farmers.
It says the system denies farmers in poorer countries
access to the market.
But Tate & Lyle, one of six sugar companies singled
out for criticism, says the charity has presented a distorted picture of
Oxfam says EU taxpayers are in effect giving a billion
dollars in a year in subsidies.
IPOD HELPS APPLE TRIPLE PROFITS
Computer group Apple has seen its profits more than
triple, thanks in no small part to the ongoing success of its iPod
personal music player.
The firm earned a total of $46m (£26m) in its three
months to March, up more than 300% from the $14m it achieved for the same
period a year previously.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON PROFITS UP
Motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson has reported a
10% rise in quarterly profit, as it revs up for the key spring riding
season in the US.
The iconic US company saw its first quarter net income
rise to $204.6m compared to the $186.2m a year ago.
INTEL SEES PROFITS ALMOST DOUBLE
A recovery in global computer spending has helped chip
giant Intel report an 89% increase in first-quarter profits.
For the three months to 27 March, the Californian-based
company made a profit of $1.7bn, almost double the $915m recorded for the
same period in 2003.
LESOTHO TO PRIVATISE POWER FIRM
Lesotho plans to sell 70% of its state electricity
utility by the end of the year, officials say.
The move is part of an push to connect more homes in
the tiny mountain kingdom to the national grid.
SALES TOP $1BN AT INDIA'S INFOSYS
Indian software exporter Infosys has seen profits and
sales both soar in the past year.
Net profits for the firm rose rose to 12.4bn rupees
($280m; £155m) from 9.6bn rupees in 2003, as revenue surged 30% to 47.6bn
It is the first Indian software company listed on the
US Nasdaq stock exchange to top the $1bn mark.
HSBC ROUTES CALLS TO PHILIPPINES
UK banking giant HSBC is to set up a call centre in the
Philippines to handle customer service and backroom operations, company
The bank will initially hire 500 people for the
operation, to be based on the outskirts of Manila.
HSBC said last year that it was cutting 4,000 jobs at
its UK call centres over the next three years.
FORD RECALLS SPORTS UTILITY MODEL
Ford is recalling 363,440 of its Escape US compact
sports utility vehicle as a result of a stalling problem.
Those vehicles affected are fitted with 3.0 litre V6
engines and made between 2001 and early 2003.
WALES TOPS HOUSE PRICE RISE LIST
Wales has seen the UK's biggest house price increases
in 12 months, with prices up by 57% in some areas, according to a new
Four of the top 10 counties which experienced the
biggest gains were in Wales, Halifax mortgage lenders found.
Gwynedd prices rose by 57% and in the former county of
West Glamorgan by 56%, while the former counties of Mid Glamorgan and
Dyfed both saw rises above 30%.
The Bank of England's April meeting left interest rates
unchanged at 4%, despite fears of a house price bubble.
ZIMBABWE WOOS NEW ASIAN TOURISTS
Zimbabwe is seeking to boost the number of visitors
from Asia, to make up for the collapse in European tourism, an official
Asia was the biggest tourist growth market last year,
state media reports.
Some 40,000 people, mostly from China, India and Japan
visited in 2003, an increase of 40%.
Tourism used to be one of Zimbabwe's biggest industries
but traditional markets in Europe, especially the UK, have collapsed due
to security fears.
US PRICES SPARK RATE-RISE JITTERS
US inflation is rising faster than expected, increasing
the possibility of a rise in interest rates.
The month of March saw the consumer price index rise
0.5%, fuelled by higher gasoline and clothing prices and the US economy's
The rise outstrips the 0.3% gain seen in February — a
figure economists had predicted March would match.
US exports have also risen, up by 4% in February to
pull the trade deficit back from the record levels seen in January.
The boost to the CPI, the US government's most closely
watched inflation guide, amounted to a return to form, since January had
also produced a 0.5% hike.
'HEFTY' BALLERINA LOSES $1M LAWSUIT
A top Russian ballerina, sacked for being too heavy,
lost a damages claim for $1 million against the chief of Moscow's Bolshoi
Prima ballerina Anastasia Volochkova, fired in
September for being too bulky for her partners to lift, sought the damages
from the Bolshoi's general director Anatoly Iksanov for harming her
personal and professional reputation.
BP TO LOAD FIRST AZERI CRUDE CARGO
Oil major BP will load the first cargo of Azeri crude
from its flagship Baku-Ceyhan pipeline in late May 2005 at the earliest,
the firm said.
"The first tanker will leave Ceyhan either at the
end of May or at the end of June 2005," BP's head in Azerbaijan David
Woodward said. BP had previously slated the first loading for spring 2005.
LARGE FALL IN US JOBLESS CLAIMS
The number of people filing new claims for unemployment
benefit hit a three-year low in the US last week, according to government
The number of newly unemployed claiming benefits
dropped 14,000 to 328,000 in the week ending April 3.
The figures come a week after government data showed
308,000 new jobs had been created in March.