INTERNATIONAL

 

Sep 20 - 26, 2004

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. PAKISTAN

3. GULF

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G10 BANKERS POINT TO WORLD GROWTH

A recovery in the world economy is still on track, central bankers from the world's 10 most-industrialised nations said at a meeting last week.
The G10 policy makers played down the threat of high oil prices, saying that indicators pointed to continuing global expansion in the third quarter.
The cost of crude surged to almost $50 a barrel in August and had prompted many analysts to cut growth targets.
The bankers, however, did say that inflation needs to be kept in check.

 

 

 

 

The G10, or Group of 10, actually comprises 11 countries: the Group of Seven states Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US plus Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.

Ministers from major emerging nations also were present at the meeting in Basel, Switzerland

Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank and chairman of the G10's central banker's group explained their stance.

"At the global level, I would say that we are confident that the global recovery is confirmed," Mr Trichet said. "Most indicators suggest some strengthening in the third quarter.

"Confidence in maintaining price stability and vigilance remains of the essence."

Some analysts said that the use of the word "vigilance" may hint that interest rate rises are set to rise further in key economies.

MARKET ECONOMY 'UNFAIR TO POOR'

Up to ten million Britons have to pay over the odds for goods and services because they can't shop around, the National Consumer Council (NCC) said.

The NCC report says people living below the poverty line have to pay more for food, water, energy, communications, banking and loans.

Lack of available transport and having to live off a cash budget impair their ability to find the best deal.

The NCC report concludes that the free market is failing disadvantaged people.

The report, ' Why do the poor pay more?', suggests that firms "cherry pick" high value customers, whilst excluding poorer consumers and those who are more difficult to supply with goods.

New technology raises further barriers for any customers who lack confidence or basic educational skills, the report adds.

Complex mobile phone and utility price packages are also cited as being particularly difficult for many poorer Britons to understand.

In addition, a lack of public transport can stop consumers from getting out and about to seek advice and find best deals.

"Lack of money isn't the only problem with being poor," Deirdre Hutton, NCC chair, said.

"The poor pay more because life on a cash budget is more expensive. You pay more if you can't bulk buy or afford a weekly shop. And if you can't get around because of a disability or limited transport, you can't shop around for the best deal."

The NCC called on business and government to co-operate to ensure that the poorest members of society are dealt fairly.

SPAIN LAUNCHES OLIVE OIL FUTURES

A Spanish company is hoping to persuade international investors to put money into the world's first olive oil futures market.

The exchange, set up in March by Andalusia-based firm MFAO, is currently used by olive growers to protect themselves against price swings.

 

 

But MFAO is also keen to attract speculative investment by major financial institutions.

"That is the objective," MFAO's Lamberto Samper told Reuters.

"The day that an American fund puts olive oil futures into its portfolio, the job will be done, we can retire."

Whether the giants of Wall Street are ready to start trading in olive oil futures remains to be seen.

AMERICANS FLEE OVER HURRICANE FEAR

Nears hundreds of thousands of people are evacuating their homes along the southern US coast, as Hurricane Ivan heads inland from the Gulf of Mexico.

A state of emergency has been declared in Florida, Louisiana and Alabama, and nearly two million people have been urged to flee to higher ground.

Major roads out are jammed with traffic and ports and airports have closed.

The hurricane is expected to land on Sept 16, after spreading devastation across the Caribbean for a week.

At 0300 GMT, Ivan's centre was about 295 miles (475 km) south-south-east of the Mississippi River and moving at 12mph (19km/h).

Forecasters say the 140 mph (225 km/h) category four winds could strengthen Sept 15, then weaken slightly as the storm nears the coast.

CHINA REPORTS SOARING OIL IMPORTS

China's oil imports for the first eight months of 2004 rose by nearly 40% compared with the same period last year, according to state media reports.

China imported a total of 79.9 million tonnes of oil between January and August, a 39.9% increase on the year, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The figure reflects a slowdown in domestic oil production at a time of rapid economic expansion.

Total oil imports for 2004 are set to reach a record 110 million tonnes.

That would mark a 20% increase over last year's total of 91 million tonnes, itself up by 31% on the total for 2002.

China recently overtook Japan to become the world's second biggest oil consumer after the US, propelled up the rankings by a long-running economic boom.

Surging Chinese demand is one of the main factors underlying this year's 30% jump in crude oil prices, which some economists believe could dent global growth in the months ahead.

IMF: NO SIGN OF HOUSE PRICE FALL

There is no strong evidence that house prices will fall, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

Higher interest rates might slow the growth of house prices, but the IMF does not see a fall in house prices, it said in its biannual report.

The IMF added that global financial markets are at their strongest since the stock market bubble burst in the late 1990s.

However, it warned that high oil prices could slow growth and raise inflation.

Strong house price gains in several countries have prompted fears that prices may fall sharply, as current prices do not reflect real value.

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan lent support to this view when he said last month that house prices may be "out of alignment with fundamentals".

CHINA INFLATION RATE STAYS HIGH

 

 

Chinese inflation ran at 5.3% for the second consecutive month in August, according to official figures.

The figure fell just short of the 5.4% rate forecast by economists. But the persistently high rate of price growth has cast doubt over the government's efforts to rein in the booming economy.

A report from state-run news agency Xinhua said the success of the government's cooling-down policies now appeared "doubtful."

KEY TURKEY REFORM BILL WITHDRAWN

Turkey's government last week has withdrawn from debate a penal code reform bill seen as crucial to the country's EU entry.

The move came hours after members of the ruling party said they would bring an amendment to introduce a clause to criminalising adultery.

The government appeared to have dropped plans to make adultery a crime after pressure from the EU.

The head of the parliament's justice commission, said the entire package was now to be reviewed.

SONY WARNING ON CHRISTMAS SALES

Sony has warned that it does not expect profits at its home electronics business to recover in the normally busy Christmas season.

The high costs of developing flat screen television and falling demand will eat into potential profits.

Low profitability in televisions, DVD recorders and audio equipment will be offset by profits from mobile products.

Operating profit in the electronics business fell 46% to 49.5bn yen ($449m; 250m) in the 2003 holiday period.

SURPRISE RISE IN UK RETAIL SALES

UK retail sales defied forecasts and moved higher in August, putting more pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates again this year.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales rose 0.6% last month, up from July's 0.6% drop, and in defiance of forecasts for a 0.3% fall.

Shoppers snapped up clothing and footwear, which showed their biggest increase in sales in more than a year. This was a result of retailers keeping their prices low, analysts said.

FRENCH BOOST FOR KINGFISHER SALES

DIY retailer Kingfisher has reported a big jump in half-year profits helped by strong sales at its French stores.

Pre-tax profits for the six months to 31 July were 346.3m ($613m) up from 272.5m a year ago. Sales were up by nearly 10% at 3.9bn, led by Kingfisher's French businesses Castorama and Brico.

FIRMS LAUNCH INDIA FRUIT VENTURE

Indian telecoms giant Bharti is moving into the global fruit and vegetable market in a joint venture with a unit of UK finance group Rothschild.

FieldFresh Foods aims to sell produce to the EU, Southeast Asia, the Gulf and Central Asia within 18 months.

India produces 14% of the world's fruit and vegetables but only 1% is exported due to lack of processing facilities.

A farm and research facility in the northern state of Punjab will source produce from all over the country.

Each firm is investing $25m (13.9m) in the venture, which plans to sell apples, mangoes, grapes, cherries, tomatoes, baby corn, okra and iceberg lettuce.

INDIAN TECH FIRMS FACE SKILLS GAP

India's IT research and outsourcing firms are facing a skills shortage, a leading expert has warned.

Universities should improve courses, said Kiran Karnik, head of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM).

NASSCOM foresees a shortage of 262,000 professionals, raising fears India could lose out to other countries.

PUTIN BACKS GAZPROM SHARES DEAL

Russian president Vladimir Putin has backed a shake-up at energy giant Gazprom which would end a bar on the foreign ownership of the firm's shares.

He is supporting proposals for the state to take a majority stake in the world's biggest gas producer through a merger with state oil firm Rosneft.

State control has been a precondition for the government to permit foreign ownership of domestic Gazprom stock.

Gazprom produced about one fifth of the world's gas output in 2003.

The company also owns 60% of the world's known gas reserves, making it an enticing prospect for overseas investors.

TOYOTA TAKES GREEN CAR TO CHINA

Japanese car giant Toyota is to start building its hugely successful hybrid Prius car in China by the end of 2005.

The Prius which uses both electric power and petrol for better efficiency has been a hit in the US, where customers can wait months for delivery.

Now, the Japanese firm wants to build a niche for the vehicles in China, the world's fastest-growing car market.

ORACLE SEES PROFITS SURGE 16%

Oracle, the world's second largest software producer, has seen first quarter profits surge 16% on the back of strong sales of database products.

The firm, currently involved in a bitter takeover battle for rival firm PeopleSoft, made a $509m profit against $440m for the same period last year.

JOBLESS OVER-50S COSTING UK 31BN

The UK economy could be losing as much as 31bn a year due to the low level of employment among people aged over 50, the National Audit Office (NAO) says.

A drop in the number of those working in later life means higher benefit payments and lower tax revenues.

Older jobseekers face "significant" problems and the government could do more to help them, though there had been some improvements, the NAO said. The government plans to outlaw "ageism" in the workplace by the end of 2006.

FALL IN UK'S UNEMPLOYMENT TOTAL

UK unemployment fell by 16,000 between May and July to 1.41 million, according to official figures.

On a month-to-month basis, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in August fell by 6,100 to 830,200.

Average earnings, including bonuses, increased by 3.8% in the year to July, down 0.5% from the previous month.

The growth in average earnings was the weakest since December 2003 as bonuses paid in July of last year were not matched in value this year.

CHEAPER CLOTHES CUT UK INFLATION

Cheaper clothes prices helped to lower the UK inflation rate in August, with the consumer prices index (CPI) down to 1.3% from 1.4% in July.

The underlying rate of RPI inflation was unchanged at 2.2% last month, the Office for National Statistics said.

The headline rate of RPI inflation, which includes mortgage interest payments, rose to 3.2% from 3%.

Despite the lower-than-expected CPI figure, analysts said further interest rate rises may still be on the way. At 1.3%, the CPI is still well below the Bank of England's target of 2.0%.

GREEK DEBT SPIRALS AFTER OLYMPICS

Greece is facing a massive budget deficit as it tries to absorb the cost of the Olympic Games.

The expected 7bn euro ($8.6bn; 4.8bn) burden means the national deficit is set to hit 5.3% in 2004, said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

 

 

He said the previous government was to blame, for concealing the extent of Greece's economic troubles.