Consumer confidence rises
A survey shows that consumer confidence is edging higher, even though recent figures showed that Europe’s biggest economy shrank in the final quarter of last year. The GfK research institute said yesterday that its forward-looking confidence indicator was up to 6 points for next month from 5.9 this month — continuing its gradual upward creep of recent months. GfK said consumers’ expectations were slightly lower this month as the eurozone debt crisis continued to simmer. Their willingness to buy also slipped, though it remained high. The financially solid country’s economy has generally outperformed much of Europe over the past few years. However, it did contract, albeit by a modest 0.2 percent, in the final three months of last year.
Trade deficit posted
The country recorded a current account deficit last month for the first time in nearly two years as the eurozone debt crisis and the faltering US economy hit exports, the central bank said yesterday. The account — the broadest measure of trade with the world — saw a US$772 million shortfall compared with a revised US$2.81 billion surplus in December. Last month’s figure marked the first deficit since February 2010, when the country ran a shortfall of US$549 million.
Austria bails out Volksbanken
Austria bailed out Oesterreichische Volksbanken AG for the third time, taking a minority stake in the lender as the Alpine republic defied warnings that its debt rating might be lowered. Austria will become the lender’s second-biggest shareholder after injecting 250 million euros (US$335 million), the Vienna-based bank said in a statement on Monday. That will probably give it a 40 percent stake, according to two people with knowledge of the plan, who declined to be identified because the talks are still in progress. A group of 62 regional cooperative lenders will inject at least 230 million euros and remain the majority shareholder in Volksbanken, according to the statement.
GM to buy Peugeot stake
US auto giant General Motors (GM) is in talks to buy out 5 percent of France’s biggest car builder, PSA Peugeot Citroen, business daily Les Echos reported yesterday, citing several sources. Sources close to the negotiation said the deal was a so-called standstill agreement in which GM could not increase its stake in Peugeot without prior permission from the car group. Last week, French Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand revealed that GM and Peugeot were in talks toward a strategic partnership. Peugeot is France’s top car manufacturer, ahead of Renault, and Europe’s second, behind Volkswagen. Last year, the firm sold 3.5 million cars.
Groupon in Thailand
Groupon announced on Monday it was launching in Thailand, the 47th country for the daily deals Web site outside the US. The Chicago-based Groupon said Groupon Thailand would initially provide discount offers in Bangkok and eventually expand to additional cities in the Southeast Asian nation. “We are very excited to expand the benefits of Groupon to customers and merchants in Thailand,” Groupon Thailand chief executive Damian Kemner said in a statement. “With our selected merchants, we create exclusive campaigns that allow them unparalleled access to our customer base while gaining market exposure to drive new business,” Kemner said.