Wed, Dec 24, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Business Briefs

STAFF WRITER, WITH AGENCIES

■ Industrial output slumps

Taiwan's industrial output last month was down 3.43 percent from October but up 6.69 percent year-on-year, the Ministry of Economic Affairs reported yesterday.

For the first 11 months of the year, the nation's industrial output rose 4.78 percent year-on-year.

For last month, manufacturing output fell 3.46 percent from October but was up 6.44 percent year-on-year, the ministry said.

Housing construction last month rose 5.55 percent from October and was up 20.69 percent from the previous year, with approved housing starts down 0.43 percent month-on-month but up 24.12 percent year-on-year, it added.

■ Foreign investment jumps

Overseas Chinese and foreign direct investments approved last month totaled US$523.99 million, a stunning increase of 94.02 percent from the previous month, according to the latest tallies released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Officials said the figure represents the highest monthly increase of the year, showing that a large-scale business conference held in October has successfully solicited foreign direct investment.

During the first 11 months of this year, overseas Chinese and foreign investments amounted to US$2.98 billion, down slightly by 0.62 percent from the same period last year, the ministry said.

On outbound investment, approved investment last month was US$288.34 million, up 66.53 percent from the previous month.

■ GDP growth limited

The nation's economy is estimated to have expanded by just 3.2 percent this year, the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said in a report yesterday.

The EIU said growth in the nation's economy this year was dampened by the outbreak of SARS during the second quarter.

"The spread of the disease resulted in a sharp drop-off in the number of visitor arrivals including the foreign buyers whose orders drive Taiwan's export growth and also damaged the confidence of the island's domestic consumers. But although serious, the economic disruption was short-lived."

According to the EIU's estimate, a broad recovery in both domestic and external demand will result in an acceleration in the GDP growth rate to 5.4 percent next year.

"The strong growth rate in 2004 partly reflects a base effect. As a result, although growth in 2005 is again expected to be driven by a healthy expansion in domestic and external demand, it will decelerate slightly, to 4.8 percent."

■ G7 to press on currencies

Asian currencies will come under stronger pressure to appreciate as finance ministers from the G7 industrialized countries meet in February, said Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Goldman said the G7 will issue a "similarly worded" statement to the one the group issued on Sept. 20 when it called for more flexible exchange rates.

"It may well be the noises surrounding the meeting that are more important than the meeting itself," Thomas Stolper and Fiona Lake, economists at the bank, wrote in a research note dated yesterday. "The outcome is likely to be a step up in the pressure put on Asia to relax their exchange regimes."

The US dollar has dropped against 12 of the 16 most-traded currencies over the past three months. Among the four currencies that have fallen against the dollar are the New Taiwan dollar and the South Korean won.

■ NT dollar gains ground

The New Taiwan dollar yesterday turned strong against its US counterpart, rising NT$0.008 to close at NT$34.050 on the Taipei foreign exchange market.

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