Thailand’s inflation eases
Thailand’s headline inflation rate eased last month from a more than one-year high in December, showing a big wage rise last month has had only a limited impact so far, which gives the Bank of Thailand room to keep rates low to support the economy. Most economists think the central bank may leave its policy rate unchanged at 2.75 percent at its next meeting on Feb. 20. Annual inflation last month was 3.39 percent, as forecast and down from December’s 3.63 percent and compared with a median forecast of 3.40 percent in a Reuters poll. Core inflation — which strips out prices of fresh food and energy — was at 1.59 percent last month after 1.78 percent in December. That is well inside the bank’s core inflation target range of 0.5 percent to 3 percent.
Panasonic back in black
Japanese electronics maker Panasonic Corp returned to the black last quarter as cost cuts and a weaker yen offset sliding sales. Osaka-based Panasonic yesterday reported a ￥61.4 billion (US$667 million) profit for the October-December period. It had a loss of ￥698 billion in the previous quarter and a loss of ￥197.6 billion a year earlier. Quarterly sales slipped 8 percent to ￥1.8 trillion. It said global demand weakened for flat panel TVs and digital products and devices, but sales grew in LED lighting and auto-related equipment.
Manufacturing jobs fall
Employment in the manufacturing sector has fallen below 10 million for the first time in five decades, as a new government vows to stoke the struggling economy. Official employment data released yesterday showed the number of industrial workers slipped to 9.98 million in December. That is the lowest level since 1961 as firms slash costs and ship manufacturing jobs to lower-cost nations overseas. Like many developed economies, the manufacturing sector has been hollowed out as Japan struggles to compete with China, South Korea and Taiwan.
S Korean exports soar 12%
South Korea’s exports surged nearly 12 percent last month from a year ago, the sharpest pickup in almost a year, government data showed yesterday. Exports were up 11.8 percent at US$46.08 billion, compared to a revised 5.7 percent downturn in December, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said. Imports rose 3.9 percent on-year to US$45.21 billion, leaving an US$874 million trade surplus. Last month’s figure is a boost for the national economy, which is heavily reliant on export performance, but analysts pointed out that it was slightly skewed by having two more working days last month than in January last year. The ministry said exports to China had picked up momentum last month, and noted renewed confidence in the eurozone.
Chronic and rising unemployment across the eurozone appeared to stabilize in December last year, although EU data released yesterday still showed almost 19 million people without work in the 17-state single currency area. The Eurostat statistics agency put the unemployment rate at 11.7 percent, the same level as in November, after revising that month’s figure down from 11.8 percent. Across the wider EU, which includes countries such as Britain and Poland, the rate was 10.7 percent in December, or a little less than 26 million people on the dole.