Retailers can't complain
It was blue Christmas for many US retailers, but not as bad as some had feared, according to sales figures and projections by economists. "It definitely wasn't strong, but it wasn't nearly as bad as people were painting it to be in the days leading up to Christmas," said Stephen Gallagher, economic research director at Societe Generale. "Obviously retailers would have liked much better, but it is not nearly as bad as feared."
Many private economists are predicting that December retail sales -- to be reported tomorrow by the Commerce Department -- will show a 1.2 percent hike, but the strength will be misleading because most of it will come from strong vehicle sales in the month. Excluding automobiles, retail sales are forecast to rise 0.3 percent, according to a survey of economists by AFX News, a financial unit of Agence France-Presse.
■ Sony Music
Mottola gets US$20 million
Thomas Mottola, replaced on Friday as Sony Music Group's chief executive by Andrew Lack, received a US$20 million severance package, the New York Times reported, citing an unidentified executive close to the discussions. Mottola spent on "lavish" parties and enjoyed an exclusive elevator to his office as Sony's music business faltered, the Times said. Domestic market share has slipped almost 2 percent since 1999, the newspaper reported, citing album sales tracker SoundScan.
Canada adds 58,000 jobs
Canada added three times as many jobs as expected in December, capping a year of record gains in employment powered by the strongest economy in the G7 industrialized nations. Employers hired 58,000 people last month, the most since August, as they filled positions for teachers, scientists and retail and warehouse workers, Statistics Canada said. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News predicted a gain of 20,000 jobs. The unemployment rate was unchanged from November at 7.5 percent. Job creation, one of the main drivers of consumer spending, helped Canada lead the G7 in economic growth last year, according to IMF estimates. With signs that the pace of expansion has cooled in the past few months, job growth will likely slow this year, executives and analysts said. The IMF estimates that Canada's economy grew 3.5 percent last year, and has forecast a 3 percent expansion this year, again fastest in the G7.
Hong Kong sets records
Hong Kong last year enjoyed its best year so far in aviation with records set for flights and cargo and passenger movements, the territory's air authority said yesterday. The strongest growth was seen in air cargo which rose 19.6 percent to 2.48 million tonnes, the Airport Authority Hong Kong said in a statement. Passenger traffic climbed 3.8 percent to 34.32 million people while aircraft movements increased by five percent to 206,630 flights, it said. The previous records had been 2.24 million tonnes of cargo and 33.37 million passengers in 2000, and 196,805 flight movements in 2001. Growth in cargo throughput slowed slightly in December, in particular exports to North America, Taiwan and Japan, along with imports from Southeast Asia, due to low demand during the Christmas holiday period, the authority said.