Stock-playing teachers eyed
Some countries fret over the number of teenagers skipping school, but Saudi Arabia is worried about truancy of another kind -- teachers playing hooky to trade on the booming stock market in the world's top oil producer. Saudi Arabia's education ministry said on Thursday it had told headmasters to ensure that teachers do not use work hours for the national pastime of dabbling in the Arab world's largest stock market. "There have been some cases, concentrated in Riyadh and Jeddah ... over the last year when the stock market has seen a lot of activity," a spokesman said. "There are natural reasons for having to leave school and unnatural ones, such as trading in shares." Record oil receipts helped the Saudi bourse rise by 104 percent last year. Analysts say half the country's 18 million citizens are believed to hold shares in listed companies, and some 3 million trade regularly.
Garuda to spin off unit
Indonesia's struggling flag carrier Garuda will spin off its low-cost unit Citilink into an independent budget airline in a bid to compete with fast-growing local carriers, a report said yesterday. Garuda vice-president Joseph Saul told the Jakarta Post that the unit, which flies domestically, would be spun off in the first half of this year. Citilink currently operates a fleet of five leased Boeing 737s. It carried around 700,000 passengers last year and aims to fly one million people this year, Saul said. Another vice president told the daily that Citilink was seeking out another low-cost carrier to serve as a strategic partner to improve its systems and management. Garuda has been hard-hit by plunging arrivals on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia's main tourism drawcard, where Islamic extremists launched a triple suicide bombing last October, killing 20 people.
China basket detailed
The weighting of the US dollar in China's currency basket used as a reference to value the yuan is "much less than 50 percent," state media reported yesterday, citing the central bank governor. Zhou Xiaochuan (周小川), who made the remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said the basket consisted of 20 different currencies, the China Daily reported, without giving more details. In August last year, Zhou said the currency basket was dominated by the US dollar, the euro, the yen and South Korea's won.
Think tank bearish
A leading British forecasting group presented a gloomy outlook for global growth yesterday, warning that the euro area remains weak while the economic outlook for the US has deteriorated. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research also said that global inflation is on the rise but upward pressures from high oil prices are more muted than initially feared. The NIESR also predicted that an era of deflation in Japan is ending as the domestic economy there continues to recover, helped by last year's depreciation in the yen and an accompanying rise in exports. However, it added that the inflationary impact of high oil prices is more muted than feared because of weaker wage growth than expected in the Group of Seven economies, particularly Germany and France. The exception to that outlook was the US, it said.