Unemployment hits 4.4%
The unemployment rate hit a three-year high of 4.4 percent in February, the government said yesterday, as the deepening recession tightened its grip on Asia’s largest economy. Consumer spending fell 3.5 percent month-on-month in the latest set of gloomy figures for an economic powerhouse on course for its worst recession since World War II. The government said there were only 59 available jobs for every 100 job seekers, with 2.99 million people without jobs, up 330,000 from a year ago.
Toyota may cut dividend
Toyota Motor Corp will slash its annual dividend for the first time in 14 years as the world’s largest automaker braces for a massive loss in the fiscal year ending last month on plummeting sales amid a global downturn, a report said yesterday. Toyota’s dividend for the previous fiscal year to March 2008 came to ¥140. But facing sluggish auto demand and dismal earning forecast, Toyota will cut the current year dividend from last year level’s, Nikkei Shimbun said in its evening edition, citing no sources. Toyota spokesman Hideaki Homma declined to confirm the report, saying nothing had been decided.
M&S sales decline slows
Marks & Spencer posted a smaller-than-expected fall in fourth-quarter underlying sales, raising hopes the landmark British retailer is finally getting to grips with its problems despite a tough trading outlook. The 125-year-old firm said yesterday that sales at UK stores open at least a year fell 4.2 percent in the 13 weeks to March 28. That was an improvement on the 7.1 percent drop in the third quarter, beating analysts’ forecasts of a decline of between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent. “The actions that we have taken internally to stem the decline in our business are beginning to have some effect,” executive chairman Stuart Rose told reporters, pointing to sharper prices and promotions and better availability.
Porsche profits surge
Automaker Porsche SE said yesterday that its six-month profit surged, thanks in part to its holdings of Volkswagen AG, but said sales of its luxury cars would likely dip this year as buyers put off big-ticket purchases amid the financial crisis. The Stuttgart-based company earned 5.5 billion euros (US$7.3 billion) in the six-month period that ended on Jan. 31, its fiscal first half, compared with a profit of nearly 1.3 billion euros a year earlier. The company said it was not left “untouched” by the slowdown that has gripped the global automotive industry as sales slid by 12.8 percent to 3 billion euros in the period compared with nearly 3.5 billion euros a year earlier. The company said it expected sales to continue to decline this year.
OZ receives China bid
Australian mining firm OZ Minerals said yesterday it had received a revised bid from China’s Minmetals excluding a sensitive military site after its takeover was rejected last week. “OZ Minerals has received an alternative incomplete proposal from Minmetals which, when completed, will result in Minmetals acquiring all of OZ Minerals’ assets except for Prominent Hill, Martabe, and the company’s portfolio of listed assets, including Toro Energy Limited,” the miner said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.