■ Air travel
HK passenger figures up
Hong Kong International Airport handled a record 3.8 million passengers last month, up 14.1 percent from 3.33 million passengers in the same month last year, Airport Authority Hong Kong said. The growth was partly due to the Easter holiday and a trade fair in the nearby city of Guangzhou in mainland China, the authority said. Aircraft movements at the airport rose 10.6 percent last month to 23,580, from 21,322 in April last year, the authority said in a statement on Sunday. The airport's cargo traffic last month rose 3 percent to 294,000 tonnes, from 285,336 tonnes in the same month last year. Hong Kong International Airport, which opened in 1998, operates more than 5,000 flights a week and has the capacity to handle 45 million passengers a year. The Hong Kong government owns 100 percent of the airport authority, but plans to sell part of its interest in the future.
■ Interest rates
BoJ dampens expectations
Bank of Japan (BoJ) governor Toshihiko Fukui yesterday dampened speculation about an early interest rate rise, saying a hike might not come straight after the previous ultra-loose policy has been fully ended. There has been growing talk in financial markets that the BoJ will raise borrowing costs soon after it has finished mopping up excess liquidity in the banking system as it ends its five-year anti-deflation measures. The central bank is expected to complete this process of reducing the outstanding balance of current accounts by early June, which has led some to bet on an interest rate rise as soon as next month.
Euro peaks against dollar
The euro yesterday hovered around a one-year high against the US dollar, which has been suffering from expectations that US interest rate hikes are coming to an end. The 12-nation euro stood at US$1.2913 in morning European trading, barely below the US$1.2914 it bought in New York late on Friday. The euro jumped as high as US$1.2971 during the Asian trading day. The British pound edged up to US$1.8938 from US$1.8932. The US dollar was below ¥110, its lowest in eight months, amid concerns that a long string of US interest rates increases is coming to an end just as Japan prepares to raise its rates. It dropped to ¥109.68 from ¥110.03. The interest rate hikes have helped the dollar after concerns about the US trade and budget deficits propelled the euro to an all-time high of US$1.3667 at the end of 2004.
Chinese sales up
Chinese retail sales, the main indicator of consumer spending in Asia's second-largest economy, rose a brisk 13.6 percent last month, state media said yesterday. Total retail sales volume last month stood at 577.5 billion yuan (US$72 billion), the Xinhua news agency reported, citing the National Bureau of Statistics. The figure was moved by sales in cars, up 26.3 percent from a year earlier and communications equipment, up 30.5 percent, according to the agency. In the first four months of the year, retail sales expanded by 13 percent from the same month last year to 2.4 trillion yuan, Xinhua said. China has been struggling to boost consumer spending to make the economy less dependent on exports and investment. By most countries' standards, Chinese retail sales look like they are soaring, but analysts have said the nation's 1.3 billion people could spend a lot more if they had the incentive.