Microsoft ties up stores deal
Microsoft on Thursday announced that it is expanding its real-world retail push with mini-shops inside 600 US and Canadian stores operated by consumer electronics chain Best Buy. Each “store-within-a-store” will feature devices powered by Microsoft’s Windows operating systems as well as the US technology titan’s Xbox videogame consoles and packaged software offerings. Windows stores will be staked out in 500 Best Buy shops in the US and in 100 of the retail chain’s Future Shop locations in Canada, the companies said in a press release.
Cabinet approves reforms
The Cabinet yesterday rubber-stamped a package of government reforms aimed at rebooting the economy, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe readied to explain the measures to fellow G8 leaders. In a video message posted on his official Web site, the premier repeated pledges that he would make a tangible difference to the economy after years of disappointing growth and debilitating deflation. Abe heads to Poland today for a meeting with central European counterparts, before the G8 summit in Northern Ireland from Monday.
Agency warns on debt
Standard & Poor’s held the nation’s sovereign debt rating at just above junk bond status yesterday, forecasting a weak economic recovery next year but sounding the alarm on high foreign debt levels. The rating agency confirmed the nation’s long-term debt at “BBB-,” a single notch above junk bond status. The rating was given a negative outlook, meaning it could be lowered to junk bond status in the next 12 to 18 months if economic reforms falter, eurozone support fails to satisfy investors or government debt runs out of control. The economy is set to shrink by 1.5 percent this year before enjoying 0.6 percent growth next year, S&P said in a statement.
Inflation hits 43-month low
Inflation slowed to a 43-month low last month, a moderation that may fail to spur another interest-rate cut by the central bank as a plunge in the rupee threatens to fan price pressures. The wholesale price index rose 4.7 percent from a year earlier, after climbing 4.89 percent in April, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement yesterday. The rupee’s drop to a record low this week may stoke import costs in a nation that buys about 80 percent of its crude oil from overseas. The minister of finance said on Thursday that steps are being taken to steady the currency, whose decline has led forecasters to forecast the central bank will refrain from a fourth straight rate cut at a review on Monday.
Sugar exports set to rise
As the world’s second-largest sugar exporter, the nation is targeting an output increase of as much as 30 percent to an all-time high in response to rising domestic and Asian demand, the Office of the Cane and Sugar Board said. The country may try to achieve the goal in the season starting from November, secretary-general Somsak Suwattiga said on Thursday. The board is aiming at output of 13 million tonnes from 130 million tonnes of cane, he said. “No matter how much we produce, we can sell it all” as demand in Thailand and the rest of Asia increases, Somsak said.