■ Forex reserves hit record high
Taiwan's foreign-currency reserves, the third highest in the world, rose to a record US$257.3 billion last month as more foreign capital entered the country, the Central Bank of China said yesterday. Taiwan's reserves, which trail those of Japan and China, advanced from US$253.3 billion in December, the Bank said in a statement. The previous record was US$254.1 billion in August last year. Gains by the yen and the euro caused reserves in those currencies to increase in value, the Bank said. In the first 25 days of the year, foreign institutional investors' net purchase of Taiwanese stocks reached NT$37.9 billion (US$1.2 billion), according to the Taiwan Stock Exchange.
■ Health club shuts three days
Alexander Health Club (亞力山大俱樂部) yesterday announced that it would shut down all its 27 branches nationwide for three days starting today to conduct full safety inspections and install carbon monoxide detectors. The branches will reopen at 6am next Tuesday, said Alexander chairwoman Candy Tang (唐雅君), at a press conference. These unprecedented measures came after a gas poisoning tragedy occurred at one of its Taipei branches on Tuesday that left one person dead and another 11 injured. Tang promised to compensate these victims and their relatives, but did not provide detailed figures. As the three-day break may inconvenience its members, all Alexander memberships will be extended by three months, Tang said.
■ GDP forecast may be raised
The government may revise up its economic growth forecast for this year on rising overseas sales, the Chinese-language Commercial Times reported, citing the nation's statistics bureau. The statistics bureau may lift its growth projection this year to more than 4.1 percent, from its November prediction of 4.08 percent, the daily said. Taiwan's export orders, indicative of actual shipments in one to three months, grew more than 20 percent for a fifth straight month in December as global demand for liquid-crystal-display panels and semiconductors increased. The bureau is scheduled to release Taiwan's fourth-quarter economic growth figures and give its economic outlook for this year on Feb. 23.
■ Electric car batteries developed
A Taiwan research institute has successfully developed safer, cleaner and cheaper lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries for electric vehicles. The Materials and Chemical Research Laboratories (MCL) under the Industrial Technology Research Institute said most lithium iron batteries currently used in electric vehicles use lithium nickel oxide or lithium manganese dioxide as cathode materials, which are more costly and not as safe. According to the MCL, the two main obstacles in the application of lithium iron phosphate material lay in patent rights and power discharge, both of which the institute has overcome by working with the Canadian-based Phostech Lithium Inc, developing the cylindrical high-power LiFePO4 batteries for electric vehicles. The LiFeP04 batteries have passed all the rigorous safety tests conducted by the laboratory, the MCL said.
■ NT dollar loses ground
The New Taiwan dollar lost ground to the US dollar on the Taipei Foreign Exchange yesterday, declining NT$0.109 to close at NT$32.094. A total of US$729 million changed hands during the day's trading.
UNDERESTIMATED: The agency said that as its previous forecast was guided by the SARS crisis, it did not adequately account for disruptions caused by the pandemic The nation’s economy might grow just 1.67 percent this year squarely on the back of government expenditure and private investment, as exports and consumer spending have stalled, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday. The forecast is a sizeable retreat from an estimate of 2.37 percent growth made in February before the COVID-19 outbreaks became a pandemic. “The previous forecast was guided by the SARS crisis in 2003 and therefore underestimated the ongoing pandemic, which is hitting economic activity hard at home and abroad,” DGBAS Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) told a media briefing in Taipei. The agency now expects exports
‘SUSCEPTIBLE’: The timing of an intervention, rather than the amount of money injected to the market, is more important, the deputy minister of finance said The National Stabilization Fund would remain on stand-by to shore up the local bourse until the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided worldwide, Deputy Minister of Finance Frank Juan (阮清華) said yesterday. Although Taiwan has stopped the virus’ spread, the fund would remain active in light of fragile financial markets across the world, said Juan, the state-run fund’s executive secretary. The government activated the fund on March 20 after the TAIEX slumped from 12,000 points to 8,600 in a short period amid a panic selloff. The main board has since recovered, yesterday closing at 10,997.21 points on turnover of NT$180.767 billion (US$6.03 billion), Taiwan
‘EXTERNAL VULNERABILITY’: The city-state’s economy in the first quarter shrank 4.7 percent quarterly due to worsening external demand outlook amid the pandemic Singapore’s embattled economy could shrink by as much as 7 percent this year, which would be the worst reading since independence in 1965, with the government saying yesterday that the COVID-19 pandemic had throttled the key export sector. The Singaporean Ministry of Trade and Industry’s forecast — which was a downgrade from the 4 percent contraction predicted in March — came as official data showed that the economy shrank 0.7 percent year-on-year in the first three months of the year, while it contracted 4.7 percent from the previous quarter. The ministry said the new estimate was made “in view of the deterioration
South Korean prosecutors yesterday summoned Samsung Electronics Co vice chairman Jay Y. Lee for questioning in an investigation into alleged accounting fraud and a controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates, dealing another legal blow to the country’s largest corporation. While expected, the decision marked a deepening of a long-running probe into the billionaire scion and his shipbuilding-to-smartphones Samsung Group conglomerate. The company’s de facto leader was called into Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office at 8am in relation to allegations over illegal acts in succession plans, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Lee has been at the center of a years-long scandal