■ Memory chipsSamsung expects shortage
Samsung Electronics Co forecast a global shortage of computer memory from the third quarter following two quarters of oversupply. Supply of computer memory known as dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, will exceed demand this quarter, the first oversupply since the third quarter of last year, Samsung Electronics said at a conference in Seoul. Oversupply will widen in the second quarter before demand outpaces supply in the third quarter, the world's largest DRAM maker said. The shortage will widen in the fourth quarter, it said. Samsung's forecast underscores optimism for a recovery in chip demand. Growth in global computer chip revenue will peak this year, rising 18 percent to US$53.6 billion, fueled by demand for semiconductors that go into notebook computers, market researcher IDC said earlier this month.
Iraqi pipeline pumps oil
Iraq has successfully pumped oil through a pipeline linking its northern oil fields to the Turkish export terminal of Ceyhan, but an official reopening date has not been decided, the interim Iraqi oil minister said on Sunday. "Last week, on a trial basis, we pumped 6 million barrels of oil, enough to fill up the reservoirs in Ceyhan," the interim minister, Bahr al-Ulum, said. The pipeline, which runs across the so-called Sunni Triangle, was closed in August because of repeated attacks blamed on loyalists of former president Saddam Hussein and anti-US Islamist militants. Ulum said the crude oil in Ceyhan is sold by Iraq's North Oil Co and bought by US and French companies and others. "The trial pumping was a success but we have not yet decided when to make the official announcement that we are ready to reopen the oil pipeline for business," Ulum said in an interview at the ministry.
■ Household savings
Japan's savings ratio drops
Japanese households dipped into their savings to cover expenses last year for the first time since the Bank of Japan began tracking the figures in 1990, the central bank said. Japanese households had ?1.19 trillion (US$10.7 billion) more in liabilities than assets last year, according to a flow of funds report released by the central bank in Tokyo. The report measures assets including cash and savings against liabilities such as consumer and housing loans and other obligations. Japan's household savings ratio, which measures the ratio of savings to disposable incomes, fell to a record 6.2 percent in the year ended March 2003.
■ Real estate
Beijing mulls unified tax
China may impose a unified real estate tax to replace a plethora of fees that currently push housing prices to sky-high levels, state media said yesterday. The unified tax could slash housing prices by as much as 50 percent, the China Daily reported. This is because in China, land leasing fees, taxes and fees make up 58 percent of the total housing price, compared with just 28 percent in other countries, according to the newspaper. The proposal for a unified tax comes amid new figures adding to worries that a bubble is developing at a dangerous pace in China's red-hot real estate market. China's average real estate sales price rose 3.8 percent last year to 2,379 yuan (US$287) per square meter, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.