Incoming President Jose Manuel Barroso has withdrawn
his entire proposed team and has hinted he may make changes.
The signing ceremony will be held at the Campidoglio,
the Rome city hall inspired by Michelangelo in the centre of the Italian
capital's historic district.
Up to 7,000 police and security personnel are
expected to fan out across the streets of Rome in an effort to protect
EU leaders from a possible terror attack.
A squadron of F-16 fighters is expected to enforce a
no-fly zone over the city centre for the duration of the ceremony.
Mr Barroso is due to speak at the signing ceremony,
which has been overshadowed by the continuing row over the make-up of
his new team of commissioners.
Earlier Mr Barroso said he is considering making a
number of changes to the commission, despite controversy focussing on Mr
The Italian, a devout Catholic, has been widely
scorned by MEPs unhappy at his views on a range of issues, including
homosexuality and the role of women in society.
An influential committee of MEPs in Strasbourg voted
against Mr Buttiglione's appointment to the sensitive justice and home
affairs portfolio in the commission.
UK ECONOMY SLOWS IN THIRD QUARTER
The UK's economic growth slowed in the third quarter,
as recent interest rate rises hit home.
Gross domestic output (GDP) increased 0.4% in the
three months to September, according to provisional figures from the
Office for National Statistics.
The slowdown in growth is thought to makes it less
likely that the Bank of England will raise interest rates.
It could also create problems for Chancellor Gordon
Brown's budget, as slower growth means lower tax revenues.
The figure represents the weakest pace of growth
since the first quarter of last year.
Then slower growth was linked to the fact that the
Iraq war had damaged business and consumer confidence.
The third-quarter figure compares unfavourably to the
first two quarters of 2004, where the UK economy grew 0.7% and 0.9%
The slowdown was attributed to a 1.1% decline in
industrial production, which includes manufacturing, mining and oil
refining and accounts for about one fifth of the country's economy.
In contrast, the service sector performed strongly,
growing by 0.8%.
The latest figures show that the retail and
hospitality sectors performed strongly over the period.
Transport, storage, business services and finance
sectors also enjoyed growth.
It now appears increasingly likely that interest
rates will remain at their current level of 4.75% for the rest of the
The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)
will make its next interest rate decision on 4 November.
CHINA RAISES RATES TO COOL GROWTH
China has raised its core interest rates for the
first time in nine years, as the country's central bank moves to rein in
the booming economy.
The benchmark one-year lending rate is being
increased to 5.58% from 5.31%, beginning on Friday.
China, the world's seventh biggest economy, has grown
so quickly in recent years that it has caused energy and steel shortages
The rate rise follows other cooling measures such as
curbs on bank lending.
Limits on investment spending have also already been
These earlier measures appear to have had some effect
— China's third-quarter 2004 gross domestic product (GDP) growth was
9.1%, down from 9.6% in the second, and 9.8% in the first.
OIL PRICES HITTING GERMAN ECONOMY
The German government has said surging oil prices are
on track to cut economic growth by about 0.25% this year.
Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement said last week that
the government expected growth of 1.8% this year, falling to 1.7% in
"We estimate that (high oil prices) have already
dampened real growth this year by almost a quarter of a percentage
point," he said.
Oil prices have soared this year because of tight
Last Monday, US light sweet crude hit a record high
of $55.53 a barrel amid fears that a labour dispute would halt output in
Norway, the world's third largest exporter.
Mr Clement added that if prices were to remain above
$50 a barrel for a sustained period, growth in Germany and around the
world would suffer.
But he said that provided oil prices fell back, he
was confident that an export-led recovery in Germany would feed through
to the domestic economy.
WORLD TRADE 'SET TO GROW BY 8.5%'
Global trade is set to grow by 8.5% in real terms in
2004 despite soaring oil prices, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has
Growth this year was boosted by trade and output
expansion in China, Latin America and Africa, and a
stronger-than-expected recovery in Japan.
But the high price of oil and other commodities may
affect output in 2005.
WTO data shows trade in merchandise rose by 4.5% in
2003, up from 3% in 2002 and a decline in 2001.
"Strong demand is behind rising prices for oil
and other commodities (in 2004), and markets appear to be handling this
well," said WTO director-general Supachai Panitchpakdi.
The WTO said that in 2003: Stronger activity in
manufacturing and mining, and a continued expansion in agriculture, was
behind the recovery in world trade. Trade in merchandise expanded faster
US ECONOMY 'CONTINUED TO EXPAND'
The US economy has continued to grow in September and
early October, but was hampered by record oil prices, a report from the
Federal Reserve has shown.
"Higher energy costs were constraining consumer
and business spending," according to its Beige Book report.
Growth was patchy as a result, the Fed said, and in
some areas such as New York and San Francisco it "moderated".
Some analysts said that the Fed may now put off a
widely-expected interest rate hike in November.
Despite the increase in raw material costs, and many
companies saying that they have managed to pass on costs to consumers,
price growth has remained subdued.
BLAIR SET TO SIGN EU CONSTITUTION
Tony Blair is set to sign the new EU constitution on
Oct 29 when he joins fellow European leaders in Rome.
The prime minister has already promised a referendum
before the UK ratifies the constitution so it can come into force.
Ministers say the constitution is needed for good
decision-making in an EU of 25 states. But the Tories say it will be an
extra burden for business.
The Rome meeting is also likely to include talks on
the halted appointment of the new European Commission.
JESSOPS CUTS PRICE OF SHARE OFFER
Jessops, the UK's largest photographic goods
retailer, has cut its flotation price to 155p a share.
The firm said it had raised about £120m ($220m) with
the sale of 77.3 million shares, ahead of its market debut on Friday.
Originally the company had planned to offer its
shares at between 185p and 220p each which would have seen the group
valued at up to £189m.
EXXON BOOSTED BY OIL PRICE BOOM
Exxon Mobil has become the latest oil firm to report
bumper profits, driven by crude's recent record-breaking surge.
Net income in the July to September period jumped 56%
to $5.68bn (£3.1bn), compared with $3.65bn a year ago. Sales were
climbed to $76.4bn from $59.84bn.
DELTA 'REACHES $1BN COSTS DEAL'
Troubled US airline Delta has reached a $1bn
cost-cutting agreement with its pilots, a deal that could save it from
The deal would see pilots accept a 32% pay cut in
return for the right to buy 30 million Delta shares, unions said.
Delta chief executive Gerald Grinstein said the pact
was a crucial step in securing Delta's future but warned that bankruptcy
was still possible.
ROVER CUTS LOSSES
MG Rover has released figures for the year 2003,
showing a loss of £77m ($128m), slightly less than the £95m of the
GEORGIA PLANS HIDDEN ASSET PARDON
Georgia is offering a one-off 'tax amnesty' to people
who hid their earnings under the regime of former president Eduard
The country's new president, Mikhail Saakashvili, has
said that anyone now willing to disclose their wealth will only have to
pay 1% in income tax.
The measure is designed to legitimise previously
hidden economic activity and boost Georgia's flagging economy. Georgia's
black market is estimated to be twice the size of its legal economy.
EU SUSPENDS US EXPORT SANCTIONS
The European Union is to suspend sanctions on US
imports worth $4bn after President Bush signed a bill removing illegal
The move could end a dispute which began in 2003 when
the Word Trade Organisation ruled that the US subsidies breached trade
The EU retaliated in March this year with tariffs on
a range of US goods.
Brussels said it would ask the WTO to review the
situation, and would not rule out reimposing sanctions.
EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy welcomed the US
bill repealing export subsidies, which was signed into law by President
Bush last week.
As a result, some $5bn in financial assistance for US
exporters will be phased out between 1 January 2005 and 31 December
PROFITS RISE AS SHELL UNITES BOARD
Oil giant Shell has said it is to abolish its twin
board structure in a move aimed at easing investor unrest.
The news came as Shell unveiled a 70% rise in
third-quarter net profits to $4.4bn (£2.4bn) as the firm benefited from
the recent record oil prices.
Investors welcomed news of Shell's restructuring,
sending the firm's shares 4% higher in early trade on the London stock
BOOTS SEES PROFITS ALMOST HALVED
UK health and beauty retailer Boots has posted a
sharp drop in profits, blaming rising competition and a wet summer.
Pre-tax profits for the six months to September sank to £146.6m from
£281.7m a year earlier.
ADVERTISING COSTS HURT CREATIVE
Digital music player maker Creative has seen a sharp
fall in profits as it continues to battle with Apple's iPod for the
lion's share of the market.
While Apple recently thanked sky-high iPod sales for
a 50% jump in profits, rival Creative has posted an 84% fall in its
year-on-year quarterly earnings.
Creative blamed higher advertising expenses and an
investment loss for profits declining to $4.8m (£2.6m).
SONY PROFITS DOWN AS RIVALS UP
Electronics giant Sony has reported a fall in
profits, in contrast to strong gains seen by Matsushita and Canon.
Sony, which blamed a fall in sales of televisions and
portable audio players, saw half-year pre-tax profits fall 12.5% to
69.9bn yen ($659m; £359m).
Panasonic-owner Matsushita benefited from new product
launches, unveiling a 140% increase in pre-tax six-month profits to
137.3bn yen. And Canon's 162.6bn yen third-quarter profit was a record
for the company.
MORTGAGE APPROVALS DROP SHARPLY
The number of mortgages approved by banks fell for
the fourth month in a row in September, figures have shown.
According to the British Bankers' Association (BBA),
59,905 property loans were granted last month. This represented a 29%
fall from the 81,635 new loans approved in September last year.
APPLE UNVEILS PHOTO-DISPLAY IPOD
Apple has unveiled an iPod with a photo display
function aimed at maintaining the company's lead in the market for
digital music players.
The new iPod comes in two versions, including a
60-gigabyte model capable of storing 25,000 colour photographs, which
retails at $599 (£335) in the US.
The device is intended to meet demand for convenient
ways of storing pictures in the age of digital photography.
WEAPONS SALES BOOST BOEING PROFIT
US aircraft and defence company Boeing has reported a
78% jump in quarterly profits, driven by increased demand for equipment
from the armed forces.
Net income in the third quarter ending 30 September
was $456m (£248m) from $256m a year earlier, topping market forecasts.
Sales added 8% to $13.15bn.
WET SUMMER TAKES TOLL ON UNILEVER
Unilever, fresh from a shock profits warning last
month, has said wet weather dampened its performance in the three months
to September. Pre-tax profits were down 2% at 1.3bn euros (£890m ;
SPANISH BANK MAKES BUMPER PROFITS
The Spanish bank which is buying Abbey made a £2.2bn
profit (3.1bn euros)in the first nine months of 2004.
Banco Santander Central Hispano, which is acquiring
the UK lender in a £8.5bn deal, said profits including one-off charges
rose 64% from £1.3bn last year.