Thousands of people remain unaccounted for after the
9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake off Sumatra sent a wall of water
smashing into coastlines as far away as east Africa.
Aid agencies have been struggling to provide relief
to the region.
The World Health Organization says as many as five
million people are at risk, with little water, food or shelter.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet Mr Annan
before setting off on a visit to tsunami-hit areas.
Mr Annan said after a meeting in New York with UN
officials that the entire UN family was ready to help people rebuild
But he said there was an enormous strain on the UN,
its staff and resources, and the disaster was so huge that no single
country or agency could cope alone.
"This is an unprecedented global catastrophe and
it requires an unprecedented global response," he said.
"But we must also remain committed for the
longer term. We know that the impact will be felt for a long time to
The World Bank has announced it is giving $250m to
help victims while the UK increased its contribution to $96m, the
biggest donation from an individual country.
S KOREA SPENDING BOOST TO ECONOMY
South Korea will boost state spending next year in an
effort to create jobs and kick start its sputtering economy.
It has earmarked 100 trillion won ($96bn) for the
first six months of 2005, 60% of its total annual budget.
The government's main problems are "slumping
consumption and a contraction in the construction industry".
It aims to create 400,000 jobs and will focus on
infrastructure and home building, as well as providing public firms with
money to hire new workers.
The government has set an economic growth rate target
of 5% for next year and hinted that would be in danger unless it took
"Internal and external economic conditions are
likely to remain unfavourable in 2005," the Finance and Economy
Ministry said in a statement.
It blamed "continuing uncertainties such as
fluctuating oil prices and foreign exchange rates and stagnant domestic
demand that has shown few signs of a quick rebound".
In 2004, growth will be between 4.7% and 4.8%, the
Not everyone is convinced the plan will work.
"Our primary worry centres on the what we
believe is the government's overly optimistic view that its front
loading of the budget will be enough to turn the economy around,"
consultancy 4Cast said in a report.
The problem facing South Korea is that many consumers
are reeling from the effects of a credit bubble that only recently
Millions of South Koreans are defaulting on their
credit card bills, and the country's biggest card lender has been
hovering on the verge of bankruptcy for months.
As part of its spending plans, the government said it
will ask firms to "roll over mortgage loans that come due in the
first half of 2005" .
VENEZUELA AND CHINA SIGN OIL DEAL
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has offered China
wide-ranging access to the country's oil reserves.
The offer, made as part of a trade deal between the
two countries, will allow China to operate oil fields in Venezuela and
invest in new refineries.
Venezuela has also offered to supply 120,000 barrels
of fuel oil a month to China.
Venezuela — the world's fifth largest oil exporter
— sells about 60% of its output to the United States.
Mr Chavez's administration, which has a strained
relationship with the US, is trying to diversify sales to reduce its
dependence on its largest export market.
China's quick-growing economy's need for oil has
contributed to record-high oil prices this year, along with political
unrest in the Middle East and supply bottlenecks. Oil prices are
finishing the year roughly 30% higher than they were in January 2004.
THAI ECONOMIC GROWTH HIT BY TSUNAMI
Thailand has become the first of the 10 southern
Asian nations battered by giant waves at the weekend to cut its economic
Thailand's economy is now expected to grow by 5.7% in
2005, rather than 6% as forecast before tsunamis hit six tourist
The full economic costs of the disaster remain
The International Monetary Fund said it was too early
to say if the disaster would affect the global economy.
The Thai downgrade is small in percentage terms
compared with an anticipated 4% fall in the economic output of the
Maldives and a 2% fall in the economic output of Sri Lanka, Standard
Chartered Bank estimated.
The IMF has said that although the tragedy would be
"enormous" to the countries affected, the financial markets
have remained relatively calm in the wake of the tsunami tragedy.
UK LEADS WORLD QUAKE AID EFFORT
Britain is leading the global drive to raise money
for the victims of the Asian tsunami, with public donations of up to
£1m an hour pouring in.
The total of public pledges now tops £25m and the
government has raised its donation from £15m to £50m, responding to
public calls to be more generous.
Now religious leaders are joining the effort, with a
plea for aid due to be made in mosques, churches and temples.
The death toll is already at 123,000, with 29 Britons
The Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella group
for leading charities, said it had been "overwhelmed" by the
response to TV and radio appeals. The total raised by the public stood
at £25m and rising.
Donations are flooding in at a rate as much as
£15,000 a minute, with celebrities among those helping to man the
DOLLAR SLIDES AHEAD OF NEW YEAR
The US dollar has hit a new record low against the
euro and analysts predict that more declines are likely in 2005.
Disappointing economic reports dented the currency,
which had been rallying after European policy makers said they were
worried about the euro's strength.
Earlier on Thursday, the Japanese yen touched its
lowest versus the euro on concerns about economic growth in Asia.
The dollar slid to a record $1.3666 versus the euro
on Thursday December 30, before bouncing back to $1.3636. Against the
yen the dollar was trading down at $103.05.
The yen, meanwhile, dropped to 141.60 per euro in
afternoon trading. It later strengthened to 140.55.
CHINESE MAY GET YUKOS OIL STAKE
China's state-owned oil company CNPC may get a 20%
stake in Yukos' former oil production unit, Russia's Energy Minister
Viktor Khristenko has said.
Yuganskneftegas was sold for $9.4bn to state oil firm
Rosneft a week ago to help pay off Yukos' massive tax bill.
Mr Khristenko said that Yuganskneftegas would
function as a separate entity and would not be part of a planned merger
between Rosneft and Gazprom.
China's demand for oil has helped send oil prices to
record highs this year.
Russia may buy CNPC's assets in third countries as
well as in China as part of deal, said Mr Khristenko in a statement.
GO-AHEAD FOR ARGENTINE DEBT SWAP
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has
given the green light to a huge restructuring of Argentina's debt.
Argentina, which defaulted in 2001, has offered to
swap about $102bn of unpaid bonds for up to $41.8bn in new debt.
One-third of these new bonds will be sold in New
York, with the rest going to European and Argentine markets.
Pending approval from European financial regulators,
the scheme should go ahead on 17 January.
CHINA DRIVES SURGE IN ZINC PRICE
The price of zinc has hit a seven-year high, driven
up by runaway demand from China, which has become a net importer.
China consumes about one-fifth of the world's zinc,
and analysts estimate the demand will rise 11-18% in 2005.
London Metal Exchange zinc futures have reached
$1,255.50 a tonne — a price not seen since November 1997.
Chinese growth has persuaded analysts that zinc,
whose price has lagged other base metals this year, is likely to
outperform them in 2005.
STOCK MARKET EYES JAPAN RECOVERY
Japanese shares have ended the year at their highest
level since 13 July amidst hopes of an economic recovery during 2005.
The Nikkei index of leading shares gained 7.6% during
the year to close at 11,488.76 points.
In 2005 it "will rise toward 13,000",
predicted Morgan Stanley equity strategist Naoki Kamiyama.
The optimism in the financial markets contrast
sharply with pessimism in the Japanese business community.
SOUTH KOREA RICE IMPORT TO DOUBLE
South Korea has agreed to a gradual increase in rice
import quotas from 4% to 8% of total consumption.
In return, nine rice exporting countries keen to
enter the market will accept that it will not be fully opened for
another 10 years.
"[This] will allow us time to strengthen our
rice growing industry and prepare for market opening," said
Agriculture Minister Huh Sang-Man.
Rice farmers fear cheap rice imports will drive them
out of business.
But the country has no real choice. Under World Trade
Organisation (WTO) rules, the country must ease its rice import
restrictions after having signed an agreement a decade ago.
KFC OWNER PUTS EXERCISE ON MENU
One of America's largest fast-food chains is offering
its customers a helping hand in fulfilling their New Year's resolutions.
Devotees of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried
Chicken are to be offered free gym membership in January.
Parent company Yum Brands says anyone visiting these
outlets next month will get a four-week health club membership.
CONTINENTAL ORDERS 7E7 DREAMLINER
Continental Airlines has become the first major
airline in the US to order the Boeing 7E7 medium-sized jet.
Continental chief executive Gordon Bethune said the
$1.3bn order for 10 planes makes it "an important part of our
international growth strategy".
The 7E7, which will fly into business in 2008, is
central to Boeing's aim to beat its European competitor Airbus.
MORE UK BARGAIN HUNTERS HIT SALES
More bargain hunters were out at the sales after the
Christmas holiday in the UK this year compared to 2003.
Those shopping at post-Christmas sales between 26 and
28 December rose 2.1% said retail information group Footfall.
Many leading firms in the important retail sector
depend on shifting large amounts of stock in the sales.
GO-AHEAD FOR BALKAN OIL PIPELINE
Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia has given the go
ahead for the construction of a $1.2bn oil pipeline that will pass
through the Balkan peninsula.
The project aims to allow alternative ports for the
shipping of Russian and Caspian oil, that normally goes through the
It aims to transport 750,000 daily barrels of oil.
The pipeline will be built by the US-registered
Albanian Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation (AMBO).
The pipeline will run for nearly 900 kilometres from
the Bulgarian port of Burgas, over the Black Sea to the Albanian city of
Vlore on the Adriatic coast, crossing Macedonia.
HONDA WINS CHINA COPYRIGHT RULING
Japan's Honda has won a copyright case in Beijing,
further evidence that China is taking a tougher line on protecting
intellectual property rights.
A court ruled that Chongqing Lifan Industry Group
must stop selling Honda brand motorbikes and said it must pay 1.47m yuan
($177,600) in compensation.
Internationally recognized regulation is now a key
part of China's plans for developing its economy, analysts said.
POOR START TO HIGH STREET SALES
Trade figures for shopping on Boxing Day have
revealed a poor start to the post-Christmas sales.
Boxing Day custom was down by 16.1% compared to 2003,
according to retail analysts Footfall.
Up to 40% of major High Street stores opened their
doors on Sunday as bargain hunters braved the icy conditions. Last year
the sales began on a Friday.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has predicted
shoppers will spend more than £5bn in the days after Christmas.
Tim Denison, director of knowledge management at
retail analysts SPSL, told BBC Radio Five Live: "The figures are
quite subdued for the start of the sales this year.