■ TechnologyHigh-tech slump is over
The high-tech industry's extended slump finally could be over, according to a report released Monday by an analyst firm that predicts next year will see the first significant increase in technology and telecom spending since 2000. Worldwide spending on information technology should grow 5 percent to US$916 billion next year, while purchases of telecom services are expected to rise 4 percent to US$1 trillion, according to International Data Corp, an analysis firm based in Massachusetts. After rising 12 percent in 2000, the last year of the dotcom boom, tech spending fell 1 percent in 2001 and 4 percent last year, IDC analyst Stephen Minton said.
US manufacturing expands
US manufacturers, catching up with a breakneck economic takeoff, expanded activity at the fastest pace in nearly four years last month, an industry survey showed yesterday. But even as the manufacturing sector grew for the fourth straight month, factory employment stagnated. The Institute for Supply Management purchasing managers' index, based on a survey of supply executives, shot to a higher-than-expected 57.0 points in October from 53.7 points in September. It was the fastest speed clocked by the survey since January 2000. Any figure above 50 points indicates an expansion in activity. Manufacturers were chasing an economy that expanded at a 19-year record 7.2-percent annual pace in the third quarter of the year, boosted by consumer spending, business investment, and a searing housing market.
Bank fraud uncovered
Russian-based Internet fraudsters have duped about 300 New Zealand bank customers into revealing their online banking passwords which give access to their personal accounts, police said yesterday. It was not immediately clear how much money, if any, had been stolen. Customers of Westpac and other banks received an e-mail over the weekend asking them to confirm their e-mail address by following an Internet link to a fake Westpac Web site. Once at the site they were asked to enter their private passwords. The bank said about 300 had done so. Details gleaned by the fraudsters would allow them access to a customer's online account to remove funds using an Internet check or to load new bill payments, said bank spokesman Paul Gregory. Police said the bogus Westpac bank Internet site had been traced to Russia and shut down.
France sells Thomson stake
France has sold its 18.5-percent stake in the consumer electronics and information technology group Thomson, a small part of which is to be bought back by the company, it and banks underwriting the deal said yesterday. The state's stake is valued at around 950 million euros (US$1 billion), based on the share's closing price on Monday of 18.21 euros. A remaining 0.2 percent holding will be sold to employees in a reserved capital hike, said a statement by Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Thomson shares have rallied over the previous week, rising sharply Monday after the group announced a long-expected television and DVD player joint venture with TCL International of China. Meanwhile, Thomson said it plans to buy back 3 million of its own shares from the French government. Thomson said it will hold the shares in reserve, most likely for employee incentive programs.