Euro crisis hits economy: PM
The city-state’s growth slowed last year and the economy will be hurt this year by a protracted European debt crisis and a “difficult” global environment, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) said. GDP rose 4.8 percent last year, Lee, 59, said in his New Year message released yesterday. That compares with the government’s earlier forecast of a 5 percent expansion. The trade ministry predicted the economy would expand between 1 percent and 3 percent this year, an estimate reiterated by Lee. “The external environment is uncertain,” Lee said. “Debt problems in Europe are far from solved. Next year looks like being difficult for the global economy. As a small, open country, Singapore will inevitably be affected.”
Balkan trade deal renewed
The EU on Friday renewed trade preferences to the western Balkans until 2015, giving nearly all products from the region duty-free access to the 27-nation market for four more years. The measure will benefit Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo. The trade advantages had expired on Dec. 31, 2010, but the EU later decided to extend them. Exporters will be able to claim compensation for duties paid last year. The “exceptional autonomous trade preferences” come on top of a Stabilization and Association Agreement between the EU and Balkan nations that gives preferential tariffs to wine, sugar and certain beef and fish products. “These trade preferences support economic integration with the EU and hence foster political stability and economic progress in the entire region,” the European Commission said in a statement.
Iran warns of price hikes
Iran’s oil minister said crude prices would rise to more than US$200 a barrel if foreign sanctions were imposed on the country’s oil exports over its disputed nuclear work, the Aseman weekly reported yesterday. “Undoubtedly, the price of crude will increase dramatically if sanctions are imposed on our oil ... It will reach at least over US$200 per barrel,” Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said
Mahindra wants to buy Saab
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, India’s biggest sport-utility vehicle manufacturer, is interested in buying at least parts of bankrupt Swedish carmaker Saab Automobile, two people familiar with the situation said. Mahindra, based in Mumbai, is in the process of trying to set up meetings with the two court-appointed administrators who are overseeing Saab’s bankruptcy to possibly buy parts of the carmaker or the whole company, said the people, who declined to be identified because the plans are private.
Ford US sales top 2 million
Ford Motor Co said on Friday its US sales this week topped 2 million vehicles for the first time in four years, boosted by strong demand for smaller, more fuel--efficient vehicles. Ford is the first automotive brand to hit the 2 million mark since 2007, making it the best-selling brand in the US, the automaker said. “Ford’s lineup of high-quality, fuel-efficient cars, utilities [sport utility vehicles] and trucks continues to attract more and more new customers,” Ford sales analysis manager Erich Merkle said in a statement. Overall, Ford brand small cars were on track for a more than 20 percent gain in sales for last year, while utility vehicles would increase more than 30 percent, Ford said.