Growth poised to accelerate
The nation’s growth is poised to accelerate to the fastest since 2010, even as the central bank warned the won’s climb to the highest against the yen in more than five years threatens to damp exporters’ profits. Momentum in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy is picking up, led by improvement in Seoul, and central and southwest areas of the country, the Bank of Korea said in a quarterly Golden Book report released yesterday in Seoul. The yen’s decline against the won is intensifying competition with Japanese companies and may hurt profitability of some exporters, the report said. Authorities were watching for drastic moves in exchange rates, Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said this week when the won hit the highest level against the yen since 2008. A housing-price rebound after the worst property-market slowdown since 2004 could support the economy after government and central bank stimulus this year helped to jump start a recovery.
Sony seeking ‘wig’ patent
Sony Corp, which popularized portable music players with the Walkman, is seeking a US patent for “SmartWig” hairpieces that could help navigate roads, check blood pressure or flip through slides in a presentation. The wig would communicate wirelessly with another device and include tactile feedback, Sony wrote in the filing with the US Patent & Trademark Office. Depending on the model, the hairpiece may include a camera, laser pointer or global positioning system sensor, it said. The development of wearable technology such as eyeglasses, watches and earpieces is expanding as consumers seek new ways to integrate computers into everyday life. The race to gain a foothold in a market that Juniper Research estimates will jump about 14-fold in five years to US$19 billion is luring companies including Sony, Google Inc and Samsung Electronics Co.
Book retailer returns to profit
Book retailer Barnes & Noble returned to a profit in the fiscal second quarter as cost cuts offset lower sales. However, the company’s sales missed expectations. The report comes as the crucial holiday season begins, when retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue. Barnes & Noble has been evaluating its strategy for its Nook ebook reader after years of investing heavily in the business and developing a color tablet, the Nook HD+, that has faced tough competition from Amazon’s Kindle and the Apple iPad. Things have been in flux since June when chief executive officer William Lynch left the company, which has not named a replacement. It introduced a new non-tablet ebook reader, a US$119 Nook GlowLight, for the holidays.
Mortgage costs could grow
The largest US banks could face more payments tied to bad mortgages ranging from US$55 billion to US$105 billion, according to Standard & Poor. Part of the sum is already covered by reserves, S&P said yesterday in a statement introducing a report on legal costs facing US lenders. The expenses will probably not hurt credit ratings, S&P said. The six largest banks have already paid more than US$100 billion to clean up claims that they sold faulty home loans and mortgage-backed bonds to investors and improperly sought to foreclose on homeowners.