For positive news - turn to Asia

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

To start off with some good news, one has to turn east today. Japan is set for 2.6 percent growth in the first quarter of 2005, a Bloomberg survey indicates. Consumer spending has remained flat though, other news reports say. USA Today finds some good news in Vietnam. In a country where the average per-capita income is 450 dollars a year, a newly well-to-do elite is emerging as the economy races ahead at an average annual growth rate of more than 7 percent. U.N. and World Bank economists worry that the wealthiest Vietnamese are seeing their incomes grow most rapidly. But, they say, most of the country's 83 million people are sharing in economic success.
Elsewhere the saga of gloom and doom continues.
In Britain retail sales suffered their biggest drop in a decade, declining 4.7 percent in April compared to a year earlier. As if that were not enough, Land Registry figures show that the volume of house sales in the first three months of 2005 was down 34.8 percent against the same period in 2004. Annual price growth continued to ease, with prices up 10.3 percent on the same period in 2004, compared with annual growth of 11.8 percent seen in the previous quarter.
Wall Street turned into the red after rumours about an unnamed hedge fund about to go bust abounded. A report from the German language service of Reuters on tradesignal.com showed only a headline "Deutsche Bank - no comment to alleged hedge fund problems", but no further copy text.
A bit of news hinging on the positive side comes from Germany. Its statistics office reported today a trade surplus of 16.3 billion Euros in March after 13.6 billion a month earlier. A year-on-year comparison shows a decline of 100 million Euros though.
Gloom looms in Italy too, says a report in the Financial Times. Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the chairman of Confindustria, Italy's employers' group, painted a stark picture of the state of the Italian economy, saying it ranked at the bottom of the European league in everything from investment to productivity and the slowness of civil justice. "If we look at the economic statistics of our country, unfortunately we see that we are down on our knees," he told a conference in Trieste in north-eastern Italy. "If we look at productivity, the balance of payments, public and private investments, the way industry is going, the tax burden on our companies and even the speed of our civil justice system, we see that we are in bottom place in Europe." Italy is burdened with a public debt amounting to 105.8 percent of GDP.
The booming Asian economies face an energy problem meanwhile. Authorities in China call for a move to extended energy conservation as the supply of electric energy cannot hold up with rising demand. Oil prices had firmed in London and New York all day long.
Chinadaily.com had news on a rise in Chinese producer prices for diesel fuel. Xinhuanet reports that the country's third largest oil company CNOOC is mulling over a counter-offer to trump Chevron-Texaco's 16 billion dollar bid for US company Unocal.
Global steel giant Mittai steel plans to erect a steel plant with an annual capacity of 5 million tonnes in India. "Steel is what is needed in India for hyper growth", Indiadaily comments.
Malaysias economy stays on the sound path of growth. After a plus of 7.1 percent last year, growth is seen to decelerate to 5.7 percent this year, easing the tensions in the local banking system. A report from the Asian Development Bank pinning exports against imports, sees the current account surplus diminishing from 12.5 to 10.2 percent of GDP this year.
Happiness is showing up in Austrian taxpayer's comments in Austrian web-media that Austrian finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser might be replaced soon. He made more headlines recently with his dating of billionaire heiress-to-be Fiona Swarovski and ministry sources are quoted that he is in good moods but less well prepared in the occasional meeting he still attends. Swarovski crystals are one of the few Austrian brands with a global recognition.

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