■ TourismSingapore mulls casino
A panel of experts unanimously backed a plan for a resort with a casino and recommended bold steps to keep Singapore a prime tourism destination in the Asia-Pacific region, their report said yesterday. The Singapore Tourism Board said it would review the recommendations from the 17-member International Council for Tourism, which submitted its strategies for keeping the city-state competitive. The government is currently studying the development of a resort with a casino on the island of Sentosa, but no decision has been made.
Intel doubles dividend
Intel Corp, the world's largest computer-chip maker, Wednesday said it doubled its dividend for the second time this year. It also boosted a stock buyback plan by 8 percent, or 500 million shares. A quarterly dividend of US$0.08 a share, up from US$0.04, will be paid on March 1 to shareholders of record as of Feb. 7, Intel said. The Santa Clara-based chip giant had about 150.6 million shares left to buy back under a previous share-repurchase plan. Based on its approximately 6.3 billion shares outstanding, Intel's latest authorization allows it to buy back an extra 8 percent of its total shares. The maker of Pentium chips plans to distribute over US$1 billion in dividends this year, and following the latest boost, about US$2 billion in dividends next year.
■ China's economy
9.3 percent growth expected
China's surging economy will grow by 9.3 percent this year, the government forecast yesterday, amid signs that efforts to tame the economic boom are failing to cap inflation. China's gross domestic product for this year is forecast to increase to 13.4 trillion yuan (US$1.6 trillion), state media reported, citing the State Information Center. Meanwhile, the National Statistics Bureau said that the producer price index, a leading indicator for consumer price movements, jumped 8.4 percent on-year last month. The bureau cited higher prices for crude oil, coal, steel and nonferrous metal prices as major factors behind the rise. China's consumer price index, the country's main indicator for inflation, rose 5.2 percent in September, remaining near a seven-year high. The figure for last month has not yet been released.
■ Global trade
WTO rules against US
Antigua and Barbuda beat long odds Wednesday as the WTO confirmed its ruling that a ban in the US on Internet gambling violates global trading rules. The Geneva-based WTO, in a report released Wednesday, held that the US ban on web gambling is effectively an unfair trade barrier that hurts the gaming industry of the tiny Caribbean nation. US prohibitions on Internet gambling "are inconsistent with US obligations" under the 1995 General Agreement on Tariffs and Services, the WTO panel wrote in Geneva. Richard Mills of the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) called the decision "deeply flawed" and pointed out that Washington "clearly intended to exclude gambling from US services commitments when the Uruguay Round negotiations were completed under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO panel ruling acknowledged that Washington may have intended to exclude gambling from the treaty but that Internet gambling is covered under the services agreement of global trade agreements.