Currency reserves set record
Foreign currency reserves hit a new record high last month amid strength in the euro and British pound, the Bank of Korea said yesterday. The country’s official foreign reserves totaled US$295.96 billion at the end of last month, up US$4.39 billion from US$291.57 billion in December, the central bank said in a statement. January’s figure bested the previous all-time high of US$293.35 billion set in October last year, according to central bank data. The reserves, the world’s sixth largest, hit a series of all-time highs last year and as Asian countries lead the world in reserve holdings. China’s central bank said last month that its reserves, the world’s biggest, soared to US$2.8 trillion at the end of last year. The Bank of Korea attributed January’s gain to higher operating profits on the reserves and gains in the euro and pound against the greenback, which led to an increase in the US dollar value of the portion of the reserves denominated in the European and British currencies.
New strategies needed: Lee
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak yesterday called for new strategies to help secure a stable supply of food amid growing concern about a global food crisis. “The likelihood of a global food crisis is rising due to climate change. We need to set up national strategies and research to tackle the issue,” Lee’s spokesman quoted him as saying during a meeting with senior advisers. Lee also called for a task force from the government and private sector to be set up to attract investment in farming and stressed the need to tackle rising energy prices also blamed for fanning inflation. South Korea has recently intensified efforts to secure stable sources of food and hedge against price swings.
Economy grows at 6.9%
The economy grew at the fastest annual pace in six years last quarter, adding to the case for the central bank to raise interest rates further as inflation accelerates. GDP increased 6.9 percent in the three months through December from a year earlier, the Central Bureau of Statistics said in Jakarta yesterday. That was higher than the 6.3 percent median estimate of 13 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. GDP increased 6.1 percent last year. Rising consumer spending is driving the expansion in the world’s fourth-most populous nation, increasing pressure on the central bank to restrain price gains and protect purchasing power. The country joins counterparts from China to Singapore in reporting accelerating growth in the fourth quarter as Asia weathers risks including elevated US unemployment.
Audi to finance in India
Audi AG, the luxury unit of Volkswagen AG, plans to form an auto finance arm in India after offering car loans helped rival BMW AG become the country’s biggest luxury-car seller last year. Audi plans an announcement on vehicle financing as early as this month, Michael Perschke, head of the Ingolstadt, Germany-based automaker’s India unit, told reporters on Thursday in New Delhi. Lending to potential buyers may help the company boost sales 50 percent from last year to 4,500 vehicles this year, he said. Perschke is also following Daimler AG, which said last week it will begin offering car loans to customers in the second half of this year as rising interest rates boost the attractiveness of dealer credit for car buyers. BMW opened its finance arm in October and overtook Daimler in India luxury car sales last year.