■ UNITED STATES
Consumer confidence down
With Christmas only a month away, US consumers became more pessimistic about the economy this month, sending a widely watched barometer of confidence to the lowest level in two years amid worries about rising fuel costs and a housing market slump. The New York-based Conference Board said on Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 87.3, marking a four-month slide and continuing down almost 8 points from the revised 95.2 last month. It was the lowest reading since 85.2 in October 2005 when gas and oil prices soared after hurricanes flooded New Orleans and shut down a large chunk of the nation's oil refineries. It also marked the sharpest drop since September 2005 when the index plummeted 18 points from the previous month.
China observing merger
The Chinese government is watching talks on mining giant BHP Billiton's bid for rival Rio Tinto and is hoping to see stable iron ore prices regardless of the outcome, a government spokesman said. "A merger between these two companies is a commercial matter over which we have no opinion," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) said on Tuesday at a routine briefing. "However, we hope that international iron ore prices will reflect the laws of market supply and demand," Qin said. "The price should be long-term, stable and beneficial to all, both the exporting and importing countries," he said.
DS sales hit 20 million
Nintendo has sold more than 20 million of its DS handheld video game consoles in Japan since the series was first launched about three years ago, a survey released yesterday showed. Total domestic sales of the DS and the DS Lite reached 20.05 million on Sunday, game magazine publisher Enterbrain said in a statement. The DS first went on sale in Japan in December 2004 and the DS Lite in March last year. The DS series reached the 20 million domestic sales mark in less than three years, compared with more than six years for Sony's PlayStation 2, Enterbrain said.
Seoul tightens rules
Plans by Korean Air to launch a low-cost international airline next year hit a snag yesterday as authorities introduced strict guidelines on the booming budget carrier business. South Korea's transportation ministry said it would enact new rules requiring all budget carriers to run domestic flights for at least two years before operating international flights. The announcement came just two days after the nation's biggest carrier said it would launch a low-cost international airline in May and turn it into Asia's biggest budget carrier by 2012.
Japan seeks secure source
Japan will build ties with African countries to secure energy and other resources, a senior official with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. "Not only for rare metals but also for energy resources, Africa will become important for us," Harufumi Mochizuki, director general of the ministry's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, said late on Tuesday. Shin Hosaka, director of the agency's petroleum and natural gas division, said earlier it may be difficult to get control of African energy resources given intensifying competition from other countries, especially China.