Tue, Jun 20, 2017 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take

Agencies

BANKING

Four banks downgraded

Moody’s Investors Service has cut the long-term credit rating of Australia’s four biggest banks, saying surging home prices, rising household debt and sluggish wage growth pose a threat to the lenders. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank Ltd and Westpac Banking Corp were all downgraded to “Aa3” from “Aa2,” Moody’s said in a statement released yesterday. Residential mortgages account for more than 60 percent of the four banks’ loan books. The banks have recently tightened lending standards under pressure from regulators. The combination of soaring house prices and stagnant wage growth has pushed the ratio of household debt to disposable income to 189 percent — one of the highest levels in the world.

HOUSING

Fewer cities post increases

China’s home prices increased in fewer cities last month in the wake of cooling measures imposed by local authorities. New home prices, excluding government-subsidized housing, gained from the previous month in 56 of 70 cities tracked by the government, compared with 58 in April, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. Prices fell in nine cities and were unchanged in five. In Beijing, prices of new homes were unchanged from the previous month while prices of existing homes fell 0.9 percent, the first decline since February 2015. It was the second straight month that the number of cities with price increases fell, as officials persist with curbs to take the froth out of bubbly markets. A deepening property slowdown could trim the nation’s economic growth rate, with UBS Group AG forecasting that sales would “lose more steam” in the second half of the year. In Shenzhen, the nation’s hottest market early last year, new home prices fell 0.6 percent from April, the sharpest decline in three months.

FOREX

HK to maintain peg

Hong Kong’s pegged exchange rate should stay as it has served the territory well through financial crises for more than 30 years, Hong Kong Monetary Authority Chief Executive Norman Chan (陳德霖) said yesterday. “Hong Kong is a small and open economy,” he said in a statement. “Keeping a stable exchange rate between the Hong Kong dollar and the US dollar is the most suitable arrangement. We have no need and no intention to change such an effective system.” Hong Kong linked its currency to the greenback in 1983.

INTERNET

Thailand boosting scrutiny

Thailand aims to buy software to boost the military government’s ability to track online networks and monitor online activity while planning a cyberlaw that would expand powers to pry into private communications. The beefing up of powers over the online world comes as authorities are increasingly targeting social media for violations of a law that makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir to the throne or regent. The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society aims to spend 128.56 million baht (US$3.8 million) on software, including a “social network data analysis system” to monitor and map individuals and relationships between more than 1 million online users, a ministry document showed. New York University researchers have also found various US jurisdictions had spent more than US$5.82 million on social media monitoring software.

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