Singapore's outlook bright
Singapore's economy is likely to grow at the higher end of the official forecast of 4 percent to 6 percent this year due to a favorable external environment, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) said yesterday. "The outlook for this year remains bright. The external environment is stable, with our major trading and investment partners growing steadily," Lee said in his May Day messsage. "For the full year, we expect to grow by 4 percent to 6 percent and we have a good chance of achieving growth nearer the upper end of the forecast," he said. Singapore's economy got off to a strong start this year, growing 9.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, according to preliminary figures released last month. Its key manufacturing sector, which accounts for one third of gross domestic product, grew a better-than-expected 25.2 percent, boosted by the biomedical and transport engineering industries. The economy grew 6.4 percent last year.
Oil prices increase in Asia
Oil prices were higher in Asian trade yesterday amid concerns Iran will be hit with sanctions or even military action because of its controversial nuclear program, dealers said. At 2:25pm, New York's main contract, light sweet crude for June delivery was at US$72.40 a barrel, up US$0.52 from US$71.88 in the US on Friday. Brent North Sea crude for June delivery was up US$0.43 at US$72.45. "Oil prices are still very bullish," said Tetsu Emori, chief commodities strategist with Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo. The June contract fell in early trade on profit-taking but dealers had predicted the declines would be limited because of fears crude producer Iran would be hit with sanctions or even military action over its nuclear program.
Japanese sales decline
Nissan Motor Co, Japan's second-largest automaker, led a 7.8 percent drop in the country's auto sales in April, the 10th straight monthly decline, as a lack of new models deterred customers. Sales of cars, trucks and buses excluding minicars by Japan's 12 automakers fell to 242,596 units last month from April last year, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said in a release yesterday. Nissan's sales declined 27 percent to 34,681 units. New models boost sales for about a year in Japan, with one of the shortest product cycles in the world. The Japanese are also driving their cars longer than before, which is stalling the market's growth. Nissan's sales began to drop in October as the boost from six new or redesigned models such as the Tiida and Note compact cars released between September 2004 and January last year tapered off.
WTO sets timetable
WTO negotiators are seeking to rescue a global accord by setting a six-week timetable to cut import duties on commodities and industrial goods ranging from corn and computers to cars. Admitting the WTO's 149 governments would miss last Sunday's deadline to work out how to pare farm subsidies and import tariffs, the organization's head, Pascal Lamy, said last week that leaving an accord until July "would guarantee failure." Trade ministers including US Trade Representative Rob Portman, European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and India's Kamal Nath failed to reach a breakthrough in meetings in Paris, London and Rio de Janeiro.