Workers ratify labor deal
Workers at a key supplier to General Motors Corp ratified a new labor agreement late on Thursday, ending a strike that had forced the US automaker to shut down several factories. The United Auto Workers said 78 percent of members at five American Axle and Manufacturing Holding Inc locations had approved the new four-year labor agreement, which covers 3,650 workers, while 22 percent rejected it. The deal forces workers to accept deep cuts in pay and benefits, from US$28 an hour on average to US$18.50. At some plants, pay for some support jobs will be reduced to US$10 an hour.
Inflation hits 26-year high
The country's annual inflation rate rose to a 26-year high of 7.5 percent last month as food, housing and transportation costs soared, and it is now a risk to the economy, the government said yesterday. Food prices alone rose 8.5 percent, transportation and communication were 7 percent higher and housing costs became 11.8 percent more expensive, it said. Last month’s inflation rate was the highest since February 1982, when it stood at 9 percent. The trade ministry has bumped up its forecast for inflation this year to between 5 percent and 6 percent from between 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Economic growth slows
The country's economy grew at its slowest pace in three years in the first quarter as stronger household spending failed to offset weaker industrial output and a sharp fall in business investment. The Office for National Statistics confirmed yesterday that the economy grew an unrevised 0.4 percent in the first three months of the year, leaving the annual rate at 2.5 percent. Analysts had not expected a revision and there was little market reaction. Despite slowing growth, inflationary pressures are rising and money markets have completely priced out the chance of any further interest rate cuts this year.
Toyota, Matsushita team up
Toyota Motor Corp and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co plan to jointly build two plants producing batteries for hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars, a report said yesterday. The move would come amid growing competition between Japanese automakers to take a lead in the race to tap demand for environmentally friendly car technologies amid soaring prices at the pump. The companies’ joint venture Panasonic EV Energy Co plans to build two plants to double its annual production of such batteries to 1 million units by 2011, the Nikkei Shimbun reported, without naming sources.
■ REAL ESTATE
Vietnam opens up market
Vietnam has passed a law allowing certain categories of foreigners to buy apartments beginning next year, marking the first time it allows non-citizens to own real estate, the government Web site said yesterday. The country’s National Assembly approved the new legislation on Thursday, with 88 percent of deputies voting in favor of the change. Foreigners who are eligible under the new regulations can only buy apartments in developments approved for foreign residency, not houses or land. Ownership will be for a term of 50 years, by which time the foreign owners must sell or transfer the property.