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- Friday, November 23, 2012 - From Print Edition


Business digest


Euro stronger in Asia on Greece hopes


TOKYO: The euro was stronger in Asia Thursday on optimism a long-sought bailout deal for Greece will be found, while the yen was under pressure amid speculation of further Bank of Japan easing measures.


In Tokyo, the European single currency fetched $1.2843 in mid-afternoon trade, up from $1.2826 in New York late Wednesday, while it bought 105.86 yen against 105.84 yen.


The dollar retreated from 82.59 yen in earlier trade — its highest levels in about seven months — to 82.41 yen, down from 82.51 yen in US trading.


The euro won support after European leaders said Wednesday that their third attempt in as many weeks to unblock bailout funds for debt-stricken Greece will likely succeed, as Athens warned that Eurozone stability depended on it.


The yen, meanwhile, has been under pressure since Japan’s main opposition leader Shinzo Abe, widely tipped to become prime minister after next month’s general election, said he would press the Bank of Japan for aggressive monetary easing to boost the world’s third-largest economy.


His comments have stoked further pressure for action by the BoJ, which held steady on launching fresh easing measures after a policy meeting this week.


Fitch downgrades Cyprus debt to ‘BB-’


PARIS: The credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded on Wednesday debt issued by Eurozone member Cyprus by two notches, from “BB+” to “BB-” and said the outlook was negative, which means it could be cut further.


“The downgrade of Cyprus’s sovereign ratings reflects the materially weaker macroeconomic outlook, a fiscal budget that has significantly underperformed expectations and the continued high level of uncertainty over the costs associated with bank recapitalisation,” a Fitch statement said.


The rating for Cyprus, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, was initially cut to speculative, or junk, status by Fitch five months ago.


A “delay in negotiating official support has contributed to the deteriorating economic conditions and raised uncertainties about public sector reform and the correction of macroeconomic imbalances,” Fitch warned.


“The government’s short-term financing flexibility has also been materially reduced with the its current dependence on bank financing to meet its funding needs,” the agency added.


Italy business leaders, unions sign productivity deal


ROME: Italy’s business leaders and trade unions signed an agreement on Wednesday to boost flagging productivity in exchange for tax incentives as the government campaigns for growth in the recession-hit country.


The agreement includes measures aimed at giving employers greater flexibility to alter contracts and working conditions, in exchange for 2.1 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in productivity tax incentives from the government until 2014.


The CGIL, Italy’s biggest union, was the only social partner to refuse to agree to the deal, warning that conditions for workers would suffer.


“The deal is an important step in relaunching the economy and protecting workers’ rights and social welfare,” the government said in a statement.


Among other things, it will see negotiations over labour contracts dealt with at a local level and not through sector-wide collective labour agreements.


The signatories have until December 31 to outline the new rules on worker representatives to create “a more stable and efficient system”.


“Over the last few years, and particularly after the crisis, Italy’s economy has developed more slowly than its European and international partners, with negative effects on employment,” the government statement said.


Mozambique plans $12bn rail, ports upgrade


MAPUTO: Mozambique plans $12-billion dollar schemes to overhaul its dilapidated railways and upgrade ports to boost exports from one of the world’s largest untapped coal fields, an official said on Wednesday.


The Ports and Railways company of Mozambique (CFM) said it was targeting four new and refurbished lines to transport coal from its northwestern Tete province to the ports on the Indian Ocean coast.


The deal would also involve the upgrading of existing ports and building of new ones to allow them to handle exports amid growing international demand for Mozambican coal.


“We estimate the cost will be around 12 billion dollars (9.3 billion euros),” said CFM’s chief Rosario Mualeia said at Coaltrans, a coal industry conference in Maputo. Before the end of the year a 500-kilometre (310-mile) track between the coal-rich Moatize basin and the coastal town of Macuse will go out to tender.


Poland to invest 24 billion euros in energy by 2020


WARSAW: Up and coming EU member Poland will invest 100 billion zloty in its energy sector by 2020, the prime minister said summing up plans on Wednesday.


An EU nation of 38.2 million, Poland currently relies on its vast coal reserves to produce about 90 percent of its electricity. Annual natural gas consumption stands at around 14 billion cubic metres, a third of which is supplied by Russia.


Poland is Central Europe’s largest economy and ranks sixth in Europe. It has sustained growth each year over the two decades since it shed communism, this despite the downturn in much of Europe since 2008. To fuel that growth, Warsaw is developing alternatives from scratch in the nuclear and shale gas sectors. It is also keen to meet EU targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to assure strategic energy independence from Soviet-era master Moscow.


“It’s the beginning of a large wave of investment in the Polish energy sector, which including our nuclear projects, will exceed 100 billion zloty (24 billion euros, $31 billion) by 2020,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters.


“These investments have a strategic dimension,” Tusk said, adding that “today, energy is the key to politics”.


Americans to loosen holiday purse strings in 2012


WASHINGTON: Americans are likely to spend between three and four percent more on their holiday shopping this year than last, in an apparent sign of increased consumer confidence, according to a survey published on Wednesday.


The poll, conducted jointly by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), found 12 percent of consumers said they would spend more on holiday purchases in 2012 than 2011.


That compares to just eight percent of respondents who said the same thing when polled this time last year.


A statement accompanying the annual survey said that this year’s planned increase in spending by some consumers “may well reflect perceived improvement in their financial situation.”


Meanwhile, the percentage of people who said they would spend less on gifts this year than last was 38 percent — three percent less than the number of people who gave that response in last year’s poll.


“Our survey results suggest that holiday spending this year will likely rise by between three and four percent compared to last year,” said Bill Hampel, chief economist for CUNA.


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