Jobless rate hits 8.9%
The jobless rate rose to its highest level in eight years in December last year as austerity measures meant to fight the debt crisis helped push the region’s third-largest economy toward a recession. Unemployment climbed to 8.9 percent, the highest since data collecting began in January 2004, from a revised 8.8 percent in November, national statistics institute Istat said in a preliminary report in Rome. Economists had expected a rate of 8.7 percent, according to the median of 9 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Prime Minister Mario Monti last month pushed through 20 billion euros (US$26 billion) in tax increases and spending cuts that have further choked growth. The economy shrank 0.2 percent in the third quarter and the government has forecast another contraction in the final three months of last year, meaning Italy might already be in a recession.
Industrial output surprises
Uncertain post-catastrophe economic recovery appeared to be tentatively gaining traction yesterday as official data showed industrial output rose by more than expected in December last year. With predictions for further rises in the coming months and production levels in key sectors of the economy now higher than before the earthquake-and-tsunami disaster of March last year, analysts said there were signs of light. However, they cautioned that worldwide economic weakness and Europe’s debt problems could still stymie any real gains for the nation, while a strong yen would continue to make life hard for exporters. Figures showed industrial output was up 4 percent in December from November, beating market expectations of a 2.8 percent rise and reversing a 2.7 percent fall in November.
China loses WTO appeal
China lost an appeal at the WTO on Monday after complaints about its restrictions on raw-material exports, but it will to be able to maintain its supply stranglehold on rare earths, crucial ingredients in many high-tech products. A WTO panel on Monday said Beijing violated global trading rules by restricting exports of raw materials such as bauxite, coke, magnesium, manganese and zinc, which inflated prices and gave Chinese firms an unfair competitive advantage. Many countries later said China was choking off global supplies of rare-earth metals, causing prices to rocket. A number of US lawmakers urged Washington to use the decision to launch a new case to force Beijing to lift its rare-earth export restrictions.
ARM Q4 sales rise
ARM Holdings PLC, whose chip designs are used in Apple Inc’s iPad, said fourth-quarter revenue climbed 21 percent as the company increased the number of licenses sold for smartphones and tablet computers. Fourth-quarter sales rose to ￡137.8 million (US$217 million) from ￡113.9 million a year earlier, the Cambridge, England-based company said in a statement. That beat analysts’ estimates for revenue of ￡127 million, according to a Bloomberg survey. ARM, with its low-power designs, is seeking to broaden its range of products, as it takes on Intel Corp. The company’s processor designs will be in almost one-quarter of all notebook computers shipped in 2015, according to researchers at IHS Inc. “ARM has seen strong licensing growth, driven by market-leading semiconductor companies increasing their commitment to ARM technology, and more new customers choosing ARM technology for the first time,” CEO Warren East said in the statement.