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- Thursday, April 11, 2013 - From Print Edition


Business digest


‘Banking secrecy’s days numbered’


VIENNA: Europe is heading towards the automatic transfer of banking data to fight tax evasion, Prince Hans-Adam of Liechtenstein said Tuesday, amid growing pressure to abandon banking secrecy.


“I think that we are moving in the direction of automatic data transfer. The pressure is growing ever greater,” the tiny principality’s former head of state said in a visit to Austria.


Consensus is building in the European Union to abolish banking secrecy and for countries to automatically pass information on bank depositors to the countries where they pay tax.


Still holding out however is Austria, although the government has said that it is willing to discuss lifting banking secrecy for foreign depositors, but not for Austrians.


At present Austria, which was sharply criticised this week by Brussels, levies a withholding tax on interest earned held by foreign investors and only informs their home countries if requested to do so.



Euro, yen head higher in quiet trade


NEW YORK: The yen bounced back before crossing the 100 level against the dollar and the euro pushed higher as a slow-news day spread relative calm in the foreign exchange market.


The euro pushed to $1.3081 at 2200 GMT from $1.3005 late Monday, its best level in two weeks.


The dollar slipped back to 99.18 yen from 99.36 yen, while the euro gained slightly on the Japanese currency, to 129.73 yen from 129.23.


The dollar was lower ahead of the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting three weeks ago, as traders look for signs of direction on the US central bank’s $85 billion a month quantitative easing program.


In a speech late Monday, Fed chair Ben Bernanke said that the US economy still has far to go to recover to an acceptable state of health, suggesting the policy would remain unchanged as long as inflation doesn’t threaten and joblessness remains high.


“Today the economy is significantly stronger than it was four years ago, although conditions are clearly still far from where we would all like them to be,” he said in a speech in Georgia.


French industrial output rebounds in February


PARIS: French industrial production bounced back in February, gaining 0.7 percent from the previous month as manufacturing activity provided the main driver of growth, data released on Wednesday by the national statistics institute showed.


The reading for that category was 0.8 percent higher than in January, the Insee institute said.


In January, overall industrial output in France, the second largest Eurozone economy, had fallen by a monthly 0.8 percent, while manufacturing output had dropped by 1.3 percent.


Insee said that in the past three months, industrial output was a slight 0.1 percent lower than in the previous quarter, while the manufacturing sector showed a stronger decline of 0.3 percent.


Sharp three-month declines were noted “in the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment (-1.3 percent), (and) in the manufacture of transport equipment,” Insee said.


S Korea’s unemployment rate falls in March


SEOUL: South Korea’s unemployment rate fell in March after a number of job seekers left the market for further education or stopped looking for work, state data showed on Wednesday.


The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 3.2 percent in March, compared with 3.5 percent in February and 3.4 percent a year ago, state-run Statistics Korea said.


Unadjusted, the jobless rate was 3.5 percent in March, down from 4.0 percent in February.


The state agency said the number of job seekers in the market fell after more returned to school or gave up looking for work due to old age, household duty or childcare.


The number of so-called “economically inactive” people rose to 16.5 million in March from 16.2 million a year ago.


The jobless rate for those aged 25 to 29 stood at 6.9 percent, compared with 8.0 percent in February and 7.2 percent a year earlier.


Spanish industrial output drops by 6.5pc


MADRID: Spanish industrial output fell faster in February, dropping by 6.5 percent from the same month a year earlier following a decline of 4.9 percent in January, official statistics released on Wednesday showed.


The latest drop was in large part the result of weakening production of durable consumer goods, the data showed.


The seasonally-corrected figure which was released by the national statistics institute Ine, has fallen steadily since August 2011, while Spain, the fourth biggest Eurozone economy, has been in recession since the second half of that year.


The constant drop in industrial output eased somewhat in October, when it declined by 3.1 percent on an annualised basis, before posting plunges of 7.0 percent in November and 7.1 percent in December.


All sub-categories showed declines in February, an Ine statement said, with production of consumer goods posting a sharp drop of 10.2 percent for durable goods and 3.3 percent for non-durable goods.


China, Australia start direct currency trading


SHANGHAI: China and Australia on Wednesday started direct trading of their currencies, dealers said, in a move seen as a boost to business ties and international use of the Chinese yuan.


The move allows the Australian dollar and the yuan to be directly swapped without using the US dollar as an intermediary currency, making foreign trade settlement more convenient and cutting transaction costs. The Australian dollar was quoted at 6.5118 yuan at midday Wednesday on China’s national foreign exchange market.


Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the move in a speech on Monday while on an official visit to China.


China, the world’s number two economy, is Australia’s largest trading partner according to Canberra, spending billions on resources it needs to fuel its growth, while Australia is China’s seventh largest partner.


The China Foreign Exchange Trade System said late Tuesday that direct trading would “promote bilateral trade and investment between China and Australia”.


China’s foreign exchange market started direct trading between the yuan and Japanese yen in June last year, while the US dollar is also directly traded with the Chinese currency.