■ UNITED KINGDOM
Consumer confidence drops
Consumer confidence plummeted to its lowest level last month since the economic slump of 1992, a survey showed yesterday, making grim reading for Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the eve of local elections. The GfK/NOP consumer confidence index fell to minus 24 from minus 19 in March as people turned gloomier on the state of the economy and personal finances. That was the lowest reading since November 1992, just months after sterling was thrown out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and the then-Conservative government lost its reputation for sound economic management.
Softbank to boost bid in firm
Japanese Internet services and telecommunications company Softbank said yesterday it hopes to boost its stake to 40 percent in a major Chinese Internet company for a total investment of ¥40 billion (US$385 million), eyeing booming demand in the country. Softbank already bought a 14 percent stake in Oak Pacific Interactive (千橡互動) for ¥10 billion earlier this month and has obtained the right to raise its stake to 40 percent, a company spokesman said. It has not made any formal offer to increase its stake. China’s Oak Pacific Interactive has 22 million users.
Interbank loans in euros rise
More new credit was made in euros than in dollars in interbank lending in the last quarter of last year, statistics from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) showed yesterday. New dollar denominated credits almost halved to US$247 billion in the quarter, while credit in EU currency more than doubled to 377 billion euros (US$586 billion), the bank said. Overall, banks increased cross-border lending by US$1.1 trillion in the last three months of last year to US$33.5 trillion. In terms of risk exposure of bank assets, BIS noted a rise of US$1 trillion in what it termed as “other exposures,” mainly because of increased derivatives and to guarantees.
Indian sector set to double
India’s IT and IT-enabled services sector will more than double in size by 2012, led by a fast-expanding domestic market, a report released yesterday showed. The industry’s revenues, including those from export markets, will reach 5.3 trillion rupees (US$132 billion) in 2012, from 2.46 trillion rupees last year, the report by market-research firm IDC India said. Two trillion rupees of that will come from the domestic market, which is growing at an average annual rate of 18.4 percent, outpacing overall industry growth of 16.5 percent, it said. Last year, India’s overall IT and IT-enabled services industry logged 22.4 percent growth in revenue to 2.46 trillion rupees, it said.
Microsoft lowers XBox price
Microsoft Corp said on Tuesday it was cutting prices on the Xbox 360 in four Asian markets by as much as 20 percent in an effort to expand the audience for the video game console. The reductions will take effect this week in Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, Microsoft said. The price of the main Xbox 360 Premium model fit with a 20-gigabyte hard drive was cut 17 percent in Taiwan, nearly 20 percent in Singapore, nearly 11 percent in Hong Kong and 5 percent in South Korea. The Xbox 360 competes against Sony Corp’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Co Ltd’s Wii consoles.