Iran could raise production
Tehran said on Saturday it believed there was enough oil in the market, but it was ready to increase crude production, if necessary, as prices marched toward US$100 a barrel. But Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said that any increase in oil output had to be agreed by the 13-member OPEC. "The market is not facing any shortage in supply. But if statistics and data indicate there is a need to produce more oil, we have the capacity to increase the output and supply more oil for the market," Nozari told reporters.
■ UNITED STATES
Sales up 8.3 percent
US retailers had a robust start to the holiday shopping season, a national research group that tracks sales at retail outlets across the country said. ShopperTrak RCT Corp, which tracks sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets, said that total sales rose 8.3 percent to about US$10.3 billion on Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, compared with US$9.5 billion on the same day a year ago. ShopperTrak had expected an increase of no more than 4 percent to 5 percent. In a separate statement released on Saturday, J.C. Penney Co reported "strong performance across all merchandise categories."
CSCL to list stocks
China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL), the country's top container shipper, is planning to list on the Shanghai bourse in a bid to raise more than 12 million yuan (US$1.6 million), the China Daily said. The company had won permission from regulators for the listing and intends to float 2.34 billion shares, about 20 percent of its total, the newspaper said on Saturday. Parent company China Shipping (Group) will see its holding fall from 59.87 percent to 47.89 percent as a result of the listing. CSCL, which is already listed in Hong Kong, will use most of the funds to add 16 new vessels to its fleet of 151 ships.
Debate on tax raise is on
The proposed sales-tax increase should be used solely to finance welfare costs, said Yuji Tsushima of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Discussion between the LDP and opposition parties is necessary to decide whether the proceeds from a tax increase will be used to pay the nation's growing welfare bill, said Tsushima, chair of the LDP's Research Commission on the Tax System. Welfare costs are expected to rise ?2 trillion (US$18.5 billion) every year, Tsushima said on the Sunday Debate program shown by public broadcaster NHK. "The consumption tax should be dedicated to pay for social welfare," he said.
Capital investment rising
Capital investment planned by Japanese firms for the year to March will rise an average of 11 percent from a year earlier, the fourth-straight year of double-digit growth, reports said yesterday. The Nikkei Shimbun carried out the survey covering revised investment plans at 1,695 companies. The 11 percent increase in capital spending would mark the fifth-straight year of expansion, the longest uninterrupted stretch of growth since the five years to March 1992, when Japan was in an asset bubble, the daily said. Japanese firms are still bullish on capital spending despite emerging concerns about the outlook due to the US subprime crisis.