Debt exceeds estimates
Public deficit and debt for last year were higher than previous government estimates, official data showed yesterday, dealing a fresh blow to President Francois Hollande a day after disastrous local polls. Public deficit stood at 4.3 percent of GDP, compared with 4.9 percent the previous year, according to data released by the INSEE statistics agency. Previous government estimates said it would stand at 4.1 percent.
Retail sales rise
Retail sales, a closely watched measure of household confidence, increased in February, official data showed yesterday. Retailers’ sales increased by 1.3 percent in February compared with January, the federal statistics office Destatis said in a statement. Retail sales had already increased by 1.7 percent in January and analysts had been expecting a drop of around 0.5 percent for February. On a 12-month basis, business increased by 2 percent in February compared with the same month last year, the statisticians calculated.
Trade surplus grows
The nation’s current account surplus grew to US$4.5 billion in February, as imports fell and a deficit in the services account narrowed, state data showed yesterday. The preliminary figure compares with US$3.29 billion in January, according to data from the Bank of Korea. The current account — the broadest measure of cross-border trade — has been in the black for 24 successive months. Exports in February totaled US$48 billion, down from US$50.6 billion in January, while imports fell to US$42.6 billion from US$46.2 billion.
Housing costs continue rise
House prices increased for a 14th consecutive month last month, the longest run of gains in almost seven years, as momentum spread across the country. Values in England and Wales rose 0.6 percent from February, with the southwest and East Anglia registering the largest increases, property researcher Hometrack Ltd said in a report published yesterday. Prices in London climbed 0.7 percent, while 50 percent of postcode districts reported gains. Nationally, prices rose 5.7 percent last month from a year earlier and the annual rate of growth was positive across all regions for the first time since September 2007, Hometrack said.
Novartis pushes heart drug
Novartis AG said a final-phase clinical trial on a treatment for chronic heart failure met its goal and the drugmaker plans to ask global regulators for marketing approval for the drug. Novartis is ending the test early as the results show patients treated with the drug, known as LCZ696, lived longer without being hospitalized for heart failure than those who received standard treatment, the Basel, Switzerland-based drugmaker said in a statement yesterday.
Two Samsung units to merge
Samsung SDI, the world’s largest smartphone battery maker, said yesterday it would absorb an affiliate producing electronic chemical materials, in the latest restructuring of the giant Samsung Group. The firm said it would complete the merger with Cheil Industries by July 1 through a stock swap. Both firms are units of the group, South Korea’s largest business conglomerate.