Tue, Dec 16, 2014 - Page 15 News List

World Business Quick Take



WPI drops to 5.5-year low

The national wholesale inflation rate fell to a five-and-a-half-year low last month, driven by ongoing falls in fuel and food prices, data showed yesterday, boosting hopes of an interest rate cut early next year. The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) — the national inflation measure with the biggest basket of goods — slipped to a lower-than-expected zero percent last month from a year earlier, official data showed. The latest WPI compares with a five-year-low of 1.77 percent recorded in October and came below analysts’ estimates of about 1.1 percent. The country, which relies heavily on fuel imports, is seen as benefiting from tumbling global oil prices.


Big strike paralyzes nation

The country ground to a halt yesterday as the biggest national strike in years saw unions halt all flights and sever international rail links in protest at the new government’s austerity policies. The strike that began at airports and train stations late on Sunday has halted bus, tram and metro services, as well as most schools, businesses, factories and government offices. The protest is the climax of a union movement involving the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, General Federation of Belgian Labor and the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium that began last month with a march of more than 100,000 people and violent protests in Brussels. The respective Christian, socialist and liberal unions went ahead with the strike after the right-of-center government of Prime Minister Charles Michel refused to budge on plans to save 11 billion euros (US$13.7 billion) over five years. Unions oppose a decision by the coalition government to scrap plans for a usually automatic cost-of-living raise next year. They also reject public sector cutbacks and plans to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 starting in 2030.


H&M sales beat forecasts

Hennes & Mauritz AB, Europe’s second-biggest clothing retailer, increased its sales for last month faster than analysts predicted, contributing to a 17 percent jump in fourth-quarter revenue. Sales last month in local currencies — including value-added tax — increased 10 percent from a year earlier, Stockholm-based H&M said in a statement yesterday. That topped the 8.4 percent gain anticipated in a survey by SME Direkt. H&M is investing in new formats and expanding its online business as the retailer faces competition from low-cost clothing retailers such as Primark.


Takata tightens up quality

Takata Corp has begun enforcing tighter quality controls on a group of parts suppliers as the auto safety equipment maker boosts production to replace millions of air bags recalled for a potentially deadly defect, according to people involved. Japan-basedTakata, whose exploding air bags have caused five deaths and a recall of more than 20 million vehicles globally, has come under investigation by US safety regulators and federal prosecutors and intense scrutiny from US lawmakers. Over the last two months, the company has launched a series of “urgent” inspections across its supply network and dispatched managers to parts makers in Japan and Asia to announce the changes, according to those involved, who asked not to be identified. Takata said its representatives would inspect 40 suppliers of key parts before the end of the year, one of those involved said.

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