Surplus at record low
The current account surplus shrank by nearly a third to a record low last year as a weak yen bloated the country’s post-Fukushima energy bills, official data showed yesterday. Japan logged a surplus of ￥3.31 trillion (US$32 billion) on its current account, the smallest on comparable data stretching back to 1985, according to the finance ministry. In December alone, Japan posted a current account deficit of ￥638.6 billion, a record for a monthly shortfall. Japan’s trade deficit more than doubled to ￥10.6 trillion last year from the previous year as costlier imports of oil and gas overwhelmed export growth.
Authority warns weak banks
The incoming head of Europe’s new single banking supervisory authority has warned that weak eurozone banks will be allowed to fail following upcoming stress tests, in an interview in yesterday’s Financial Times. Frenchwoman Daniele Nouy was giving her first interview since being appointed chief of the Single Supervisory Mechanism, set up as part of attempts to stabilize the EU’s banking system and shift the financial costs of failed banks away from sovereign governments “We have to accept that some banks have no future,” she told the Financial Times. “We have to let some disappear in an orderly fashion and not necessarily try to merge them with other institutions.” Nouy also said lenders should be forced to hold collateral against their sovereign bonds to break the toxic link between failing banks and governments.
Slim telecom fined
Ecuador has fined a telecoms firm owned by Mexican magnate Carlos Slim for allegedly engaging in unfair competition, officials said on Sunday. The Ecuadoran markets monitor SCPM issued a decision on Friday to fine Conecel, part of the Mexican giant America Movil, 10 percent of its 2012 sales. The fine followed an investigation by the National Telecommunications Board. In October 2012, it said Conecel was abusing its local market dominance. Conecel, which controls 67 percent of the market, has rejected the charges. Ecuador claims it is acting illegally by pressuring and having exclusive business ties to people who own land used by broadcast towers.
Mediation over mine strike
Top global platinum producers are to meet independent mediators this week to discuss a two-week wage strike, according to the union whose 80,000 workers have downed tools. Earlier talks led by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration adjourned last week after the firms said they had reached “no settlement” with negotiators of the radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. Producers say the current stoppages have cost the economy US$360 million. The country accounts for 80 percent of global platinum production.
Apple buying plan opposed
Investor Carl Icahn’s push for Apple Inc to buy back US$50 billion of stock this year was opposed by an influential proxy-voting service, which said such a motion would “micromanage” how the company uses capital. Investors should vote against the non-binding proposal, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc said in a report on Sunday. Icahn said last month he increased his Apple stake by US$500 million to about US$3.6 billion. Apple has recommended investors vote against Icahn’s proposal.