Jobless rate leaps 3.2%
The jobless rate leapt 3.2 percent in November, compared with the previous month, and 8.5 percent year on year, with more than 2 million out of work, the employment ministry announced on Tuesday. More than 64,000 people joined the ranks of those seeking work, the new figures said. Employment Minister Christine Lagarde blamed the surge in the jobless figures on the global economic crisis. The job losses came in a sharp rise in redundancies and a fall in short-term contracts. On Monday, the latest figures from the state statistics institute suggested the country would just manage to avoid recession, with growth of 0.1 percent in the third quarter.
US home prices slump
Home prices in the US’ top 20 cities slumped to March 2004 levels after more record declines through October, a Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller survey showed on Tuesday. The survey showed a record year-on-year decline of 18 percent in the 20 largest US metropolitan areas. In the 10 largest, the decline was 19.1 percent. “The bear market continues; home prices are back to their March 2004 levels,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s. Blitzer said that as of October, the 10-city composite was down 25 percent from its mid-2006 peak and the 20-city index was down 23.4 percent. Three of the metro areas have given back, on average, more than 30 percent of the value of homes since October of last year. Phoenix, Arizona, was the weakest market, reporting an annual decline of 32.7 percent, followed by Las Vegas (31.7 percent) and San Francisco (31 percent).
Inflation hits 10-year high
The annual inflation rate for last year hit a 10-year high of 4.7 percent, well above the central bank’s target of 2.5 to 3.5 percent, official figures showed yesterday. The figure compares with a 2.5 percent rate in 2007, the National Statistical Office said. Last month, the consumer price index rose 4.1 percent from a year earlier, slowing for a fifth straight month because of falling oil prices. The eased inflationary pressure gave the central bank leeway to cut interest rates sharply to counter the global downturn. Since early October the bank has cut its key interest rate by a total of 2.25 percentage points to an all-time low of 3 percent. Central bank governor Lee Seong-tae said in a New Year message that the central bank would focus its monetary policy next year on boosting the economy and stabilizing financial markets. His remarks were seen as hinting at more rate cuts.
Kookmin Bank raises funds
Kookmin Bank, South Korea’s largest, raised 57.3 billion won (US$45.5 million) selling shares in its parent KB Financial Group Inc as it braces for rising bad debts. Kookmin sold 1.78 million shares for 32,142 won apiece on Tuesday, arranger Merrill Lynch & Co said in a statement yesterday.
Integra signs loan accord
Integra Group, the first Russian oil-field services company to list in London, signed an accord to borrow US$300 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Integra will use the first US$75 million of the five-year loan to refinance short-term debt, the company said in a statement yesterday.