Fitch affirms ‘AAA’ rating
International credit rating agency Fitch affirmed yesterday the top-notch triple-A rating on Germany’s sovereign debt and said the outlook was stable. “Germany continues to have the components of a declining public debt path. The economy is growing, the budget position is relatively favorable and nominal interest rates are low,” Fitch said in a statement. The ratio of general government debt to GDP “has already started to fall in Germany, unlike its ‘AAA’-rated eurozone peers” and Britain and the US, the rating agency said. Fitch estimated that Germany’s debt ratio eased to about 79.4 percent last year from 81 percent in 2012. As Europe’s paymaster, Germany has been the biggest contributor to the bailout programs for its struggling neighbors, but that financial burden is continuing to ease “on improved regional governance, economic recovery and policy of the European Central Bank,” Fitch said.
Malware still a threat
The FBI has warned US retailers to prepare for more cyberattacks after discovering about 20 hacking cases in the past year that involved the same kind of malicious software used against Target Corp in the holiday shopping season. The FBI distributed a confidential, three-page report to retail companies last week describing the risks posed by “memory-parsing” malware that infects point-of-sale systems, which include cash registers and credit-card swiping machines found in store checkout aisles. “We believe POS malware crime will continue to grow over the near term, despite law enforcement and security firms’ actions to mitigate it,” the report said.
Starbucks sales disappoint
Starbucks Corp, the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, posted first-quarter sales that trailed analysts’ projections as weakening consumer confidence and more online holiday shopping slowed US growth. Revenue in the three months ended Dec. 29 last year rose 12 percent to US$4.24 billion, the Seattle-based company said yesterday in a statement. Analysts projected US$4.29 billion on average. Net income climbed 25 percent, topping analysts’ estimates. Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz is pushing higher-quality baked goods and opening Teavana stores across the Americas to try to maintain sales growth. Sales at stores open at least 13 months rose 5 percent in the Americas region, which includes the US, Canada and Latin America. That trailed the 8 percent gain in the fiscal fourth quarter and the 6.4 percent average estimate of analysts compiled by Consensus Metrix. Net income increased to US$540.7 million, or earnings per share of US$0.71, from US$432.2 million, or US$0.57, the previous year. Analysts estimated US$0.69 a share, the average of 29 projections showed.
House prices edge lower
Singapore’s fourth-quarter house prices slid for the first time in almost two years, trimming annual gains to the smallest since 2008 as mortgage curbs cooled prices. The private residential property price index fell 0.9 percent in the three months ended last month, more than the 0.8 percent drop based on preliminary data announced on Jan. 2. The decline in suburban housing values was 1 percent, more than the 0.6 percent slide in the earlier report, according to a government statement yesterday. “The data means that in the last three weeks of December, the price decline accelerated in the suburban market,” executive director at property consultants SLP Singapore Nicholas Mak said.