Saturday, December 2, 2017

Oil producers hope for stable market in 2018; Toys R Us faces more trouble; The price to pay for shipbreaking

1 Oil producers hope for stable market in 2018 (Gulf News) The world oil market has the potential to reach full stability in 2018 as the level of inventories are expected to be reduced to a comfortable level, said Suhail Bin Mohammad Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Industry, ahead of the Opec Ministerial Meeting in Vienna where it has been agreed to extend oil output cuts until the end of 2018.

The minister said, “For stability to happen, we need to consider renewing or extending the deal further and we need to see the same level of compliance achieved in 2017.” The Declaration of Cooperation’ was a landmark decision reached by 13 Opec and 11 non-Opec producers at the joint ministerial-level meeting in Vienna on 10th December 2016.

Opec and its allies outside the group agreed on 30th November to maintain oil production cuts until the end of 2018. A joint Opec and non-Opec communique said the next meeting in June 2018 would present an opportunity to adjust the agreement based on market conditions.

“The Declaration of Corporation’ by Opec and non-Opec participating countries gave hope and stability to the market at a very critical time, especially when the non-Opec oil producing countries showed commitment in compliance with the Declaration of Cooperation, even though this is the first time that they worked together with Opec, which was a testimony to their responsible efforts toward market stability,” said Al Mazrouei.

http://gulfnews.com/business/sectors/energy/world-oil-market-may-reach-full-stability-in-2018-uae-energy-minister-1.2134009

2 Toys R Us shutting more shops (BBC) Toys R Us is preparing to close around a quarter of its 106 UK stores, with the loss of hundreds of jobs, the BBC understands. The closures would form part of a deal to renegotiate debts owed by the company to its landlords - which must be agreed by 75% of its creditors.

The toy giant, which has around 3,000 workers, is looking to move away from its "big-box" out-of-town store model. The company is seeking approval from its board and US parent company to enter talks with the landlords.

Specialist restructuring firm Alvarez and Marsal is understood to be drafting a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) on its behalf. The CVA process is separate to bankruptcy protection proceedings involving Toys R Us's US parent company, which were announced in September.

Retail analyst Kate Hardcastle, from Insight With Passion, said the challenge facing Toys R Us is a common theme of retailers. "Toy retailers, fashion retailers, everyone is going to reduce the size of their stores. It's coming. In the coming 24 months you will see a lot more of this sort of news," Ms Hardcastle said.

Ms Hardcastle said Toys R Us was stuck between the extensive range and lower pricing of online retail and the theatrics and free entertainment offered by toy stores such as Hamleys, Lego and Disney stores. "Toys R Us does not fit into either of these market spaces".

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42204182

3 The price to pay for shipbreaking (John Vidal in The Guardian) Chittagong in Bangladesh is now the world’s largest shipbreaking centre, last year recycling 230 ships and generating 10m tonnes of steel – up to 60% of all the steel used in Bangladesh.

Most of the workers migrate from rural areas. Hired out in gangs, they live in overcrowded shacks close to the yards. The Ferdous yard is like many others. Hidden behind high metal gates, it slopes down to the Bay of Bengal. It can take months for young men, wielding only sledgehammers and metal cutters, to dismantle a large vessel.

“Chittagong is the cheapest place to scrap ships but the price is suffering. Nine men have died here this year. Nobody feels responsible for these men’s lives,” says Muhammed Ali Shahin, Bangladesh coordinator of Shipbreaking Platform. The law offers little protection, he says. “EU laws stop EU-flagged ships being broken up on Asian beaches, but because owners can easily ‘reflag’ ships it has little strength.”

Pressed by labour groups, the UN’s International Maritime Organisation passed the Hong Kong Convention (HKC) in 2009. This demands that ship owners and states do not pose a risk to human health, safety and the environment. But, says Shipbreaking Platform, it does not stop the beaching of vessels, which is blamed for most accidents, and it is unlikely to come into force for years because it requires 15 states, and 40% of world merchant shipping, to have signed up.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/dec/02/chittagong-shipbreaking-yards-legal-fight#img-1

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Robots to take 800m jobs by 2030; Canada tests 'basic income' effect on poverty; Just Eat enters FTSE 100

1 Robots to take 800m jobs by 2030 (BBC) Up to 800 million global workers will lose their jobs by 2030 and be replaced by robotic automation, a new report has found. The study of 46 countries and 800 occupations by the McKinsey Global Institute found that up to one-fifth of the global work force will be affected.

It said one-third of the workforce in richer nations like Germany and the US may need to retrain for other jobs. Machine operators and food workers will be hit hardest, the report says. Poorer countries that have less money to invest in automation will not be affected as much, according to McKinsey.

India, the authors write, will only have about 9% of jobs replaced by emerging technologies. The authors see tasks carried out by mortgage brokers, paralegals, accountants, and some back-office staff as especially vulnerable to automation.

Jobs requiring human interaction such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and bartenders are seen by McKinsey as less prone to automation. Specialised lower-wage jobs, such as gardening, plumbing and care work, will also be less affected by automation, the study predicted.

In developed countries, the need for a university education will grow, as jobs that require less education shrink. In the US alone, 39 to 73 million jobs may be eliminated by 2030, but about 20 million of those displaced workers may be able to easily transfer to other industries, according to the McKinsey report.


2 Canada tests ‘basic income’ effect on poverty (San Francisco Chronicle) Former security guard Tim Button considers how a sudden increase in his income from an unusual social experiment has changed his life in this Canadian industrial city along the shore of Lake Ontario.

Sipping coffee, Button says he has been unable to work because of a fall from a roof, and the financial boost from Ontario Province's new "basic income" program has enabled him to make plans to visit distant family for Christmas for the first time in years. It has also prompted him to eat healthier, schedule a long-postponed trip to the dentist and mull taking a course to help him get back to work.

"It's making a huge difference for me," Button said of the almost 60 percent increase in monthly benefits he started receiving in October from the Ontario government. Ontario intends to provide a basic income to 4,000 people in three different communities as part of an experiment to evaluate whether providing more money to people on public assistance or low incomes will make a significant difference in their lives.

How people like Button respond over the next three years is being closely watched by social scientist, economists, and policy makers in Canada and around the world. "Does it produce better outcomes in terms of education for the kids? Does it produce better health status after three years of this kind of living? Does it produce better affinity with the workplace if there is not a total disincentive to work?" said Hugh Segal, a former Canadian senator consulted by the Ontario government for the pilot project.

Technology leaders such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla founder Elon Musk have promoted the idea as a way to address the potential loss of jobs to automation and artificial intelligence. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the experiment is rooted in a fear there will be a mass dislocation of jobs not seen since the Industrial Revolution that governments will have to address.


3 Just Eat enters FTSE 100 (Rupert Neate in The Guardian) Just Eat, the online takeaway company, has been officially promoted into the FTSE 100 list of Britain’s blue chip companies, with a valuation of £5.5bn – making it worth half a billion pounds more than the UK’s second biggest supermarket chain .

The UK’s love affair with having pizzas, curries and kebabs delivered to their door has spawned a mobile food business with no products and no outlets that is more highly valued than Sainsbury’s, which sells 90,000 products through 1,400 stores – and also owns the Argos chain. Just Eat is also worth more than Morrisons and Marks & Spencer.

Little-known Danish technology entrepreneur Bo Bendtsen is the single-biggest shareholder in Just Eat with a 13% stake in the business now worth just over £730m. But Bendtsen, who had just 88 followers on Twitter at the time of writing, did not found the company, which provides takeaways to 19 million people.

The man who came up with the idea was another Dane, Jesper Buch. He hit upon the idea of Just Eat when he was on a diplomatic internship in Norway in 2000 and set the company up with four friends in his basement. He sold his entire Just Eat stake to a private equity firm for £3m in 2008.

Buch, now 44, came up with the idea for Just Eat when he couldn’t find a phone number online to order pizza when he was hungry in Olso. Realising there was a “massive gap in the market” he created his own website which would list all nearby restaurants. He had hit on “the perfect business model”, he told Money Week. “I did not need to handle any product – I could just charge a commission for every transaction.”

Those commissions (13% for existing restaurants and 14% for newcomers, plus a £699 sign-up fee for restaurants joining the service) added up fast. The company now works with 28,000 restaurants in the UK, delivering more than 2m meals a week. It boasts that “nobody offers more variety when it comes to bringing people food”.

More than 800 of Just Eat’s 2,500 staff from across the world (Sainsbury’s, by comparison, has 195,000 staff) came together to celebrate the company’s success last week by creating the world’s biggest human image of a pizza.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Musk beats deadline for biggest battery; Bezos' fortune hits $100bn; When all cars drive themselves

1 Musk beats deadline for biggest battery (Gulf News) Entrepreneur Elon Musk has won a $50 million bet by beating a 100-day deadline for building a giant battery to help South Australia avoid energy blackouts, officials said.

State Premier Jay Weatherill said testing of the massive lithium ion battery would begin within days, ahead of the December 1 deadline Musk set for himself when he signed off on the project earlier this year.

Musk had pledged to build the battery in the South Australian outback for free if it was not completed within the 100 days. He estimated that would cost at least $50 million — local authorities will now pick up the tab.

The entrepreneur behind electric carmaker Tesla made the pledge in response to power woes in South Australia, which was last year hit by a state-wide blackout after severe winds from an “unprecedented” storm tore transmission towers from the ground.

Musk’s Tesla Powerpack is connected to a wind farm operated by French energy firm Neoen and is expected to hold enough power for thousands of homes during periods of excess demand that could result in blackouts. South Africa-born Musk was a founder of payments company PayPal, electric carmaker Tesla Motors and SpaceX, maker and launcher of rockets and spacecraft.


2 Bezos’ fortune hits $100bn (Straits Times) Jeff Bezos is the world's newest $100 billion mogul. The Amazon.com founder's fortune is up to $100.3 billion as the online retailer's shares jumped more than 2 per cent on optimism for Black Friday sales.

Online purchases for the day are up 18.4 per cent over last year, according to data from Adobe Analytics, and investors are betting the company will take an outsized share of online spending over the gifting season.

The $100 billion milestone makes Bezos, 53, the first billionaire to build a 12-figure net worth since 1999, when Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates hit the mark. As Bezos' wealth flirts with new heights, there are likely to be more questions about what he intends to do with it.

Unlike Gates, who was the world's richest person until Bezos passed him in October, or US investor Warren Buffett, the world's third-richest person with $78.9 billion, Bezos has given relatively little of his fortune to charity. Bezos is only just starting to focus on philanthropy, and in June tweeted a request for ideas on how to help people.

Gates, 62, who has a net worth of $86.8 billion according to the Bloomberg index, would be worth more than $150 billion if he hadn't given away almost 700 million Microsoft shares and $2.9 billion of cash and other assets to charity, according to an analysis of his publicly disclosed giving since 1996.


3 When all cars drive themselves (Gwyn Topham in The Guardian/The Observer) The chancellor may have been keen to talk about the autonomous future in his budget, but the money that talked loudest last week came from Uber’s billion-pound deal with Swedish carmaker Volvo.

The scale of the order suggests driverless cars could indeed be just around the corner: 24,000 Volvos are to be kitted out with the ride-hailing company’s self-driving technology between 2019 and 2021. Assuming a robot driver can do three times as many shifts as a human, those cars alone could replace, for example, every non-Uber taxi or minicab in London.

The race has been led by Google’s self-driving division, now spun off as Waymo, which has just started trials of a driverless taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona. Even before its first lift has been hailed by a member of the public – and without having made a car of its own, as it currently buys in Chrysler minivans – Waymo has been valued at $70bn by Morgan Stanley.

Mobileye, an Israeli maker of chips and cameras for self-driving vehicles with revenues of only $300m a year, was bought by Intel for $15.3bn in March. Uber is rushing to develop its own robo-taxi tech to scale up profits on its enormous global customer base.

Many expect the number of vehicles in private household ownership to fall. Car manufacturers have been hiring directors from software and tech firms as the market has tilted – witness Tesla’s valuation surpassing Ford and GM’s this year.

Around a million people in the UK who drive for a living could have to retrain, the chancellor said, acknowledging that “for some people, this will be very challenging”. The £46bn that the UK government claims to have forsaken by freezing fuel duty may be only a warm-up for the gaping hole that an all-electric fleet would mean. Tens of millions in revenue for traffic offences could also be jeopardised by law-abiding robots.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Airbus bags single-biggest order worth $50bn; AI not to kill jobs yet; What employers think of job hoppers

1 Airbus bags single-biggest order worth $50bn (Russell Hotten on BBC) Airbus has struck its biggest single deal with an order for 430 aircraft worth $49.5bn at list prices from US investment firm Indigo Partners.

Indigo, whose interests include Europe's Wizz Air, US-based Frontier, and Mexico's Volaris, will buy Airbus's A320neo family of aircraft. The order on the penultimate day of the Dubai Airshow comes after what could have been a difficult week for Airbus. On Sunday, Emirates appeared to snub Airbus over an A380 superjumbo deal.

Indigo's managing partner, Bill Franke, 80, flew to Dubai for the signing ceremony, although there are still final details of the deal to be worked out. He said these should be completed by the end of the year.

The Indigo deal more than doubles Airbus's existing order book for the year, which stood at about 290 aircraft as of the end of October. Wednesday's deal beats a 2015 order for 250 single-aisle planes valued at $27bn by Indian budget carrier IndiGo. The two companies are unrelated.

Despite the headline list price of the Indigo order, airlines typically get discounts on bulk-buys. "Regretfully, Indigo will not be paying $49.5bn," said Airbus sale chief John Leahy when asked about discounts.

Clinching the deal was seen as a personal triumph for Mr Leahy, who retires at the end of the year after 20 years at Airbus and who had said he hoped to clinch one more big order before going. He has sold more than 15,000 jets worth an estimated $1.7 trillion.


2 AI not to kill jobs yet (Gulf News) Contrary to global fears, few workers believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take away their jobs, a new survey claimed.

The survey of more than 5,000 people from across the US, the UK and Australia by global professional services firm Genpact showed a striking gap in views about AI’s impact on their current roles versus the expected impact on the future workforce.

Only 10 per cent of people surveyed strongly agreed that AI threatens their jobs today. However, nearly everyone (90 per cent of respondents) believes younger generations need new skills to succeed as AI becomes more prevalent at the workplace.

“Artificial intelligence brings a seismic shift in the future of work — making some roles obsolete and enhancing others, while at the same time, creating new jobs, and even spawning new professions,” said Sanjay Srivastava, Chief Digital Officer, Genpact.

Forty per cent of all workers surveyed indicate they would be comfortable working with robots within the next three years. “The big question is how to effectively encourage and adopt human-machine collaboration,” said Srivastava. “And the key is in a top-down culture that embraces AI, learning, and training at all levels, within a comprehensive change management framework.”


3 What employers think of job hoppers (Kim Thompson in San Francisco Chronicle) The chances of changing jobs multiple times in your career is high in today’s marketplace, and according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average length of time spent with an employer is under five years.

Change is the norm, and the stigma of moving from one job to the next is understandable, but the way you go about explaining change makes a difference with hiring decision-makers. Job hopping can make an employer think you are a risk.

Job hopping can have a ring of disloyalty. It sounds unsettling as if your focus is more on yourself rather than the employer. For an employer to spend time and resources bringing you on board, the last thing they want is making a wrong hiring decision that will cost money.

Changing jobs with the goal of advancing your career can be a solid strategy, and in some cases, the only way you can grow is to switch employers. Working for a new employer can be a good choice if you are wanting to enhance your career for the right reasons, such as growth, exposure to training, an increased scope of responsibility, higher compensation or new location.

The one area overlooked by most job candidates when deciding to leave is the working relationship factor. Even though you worked for a company, you work with people. When you leave an employer, you are leaving the person who probably hired you. In the marketplace you never want to burn bridges, nor develop a reputation that sends an “I don’t care” message.

The issue with most employers regarding a frequent job history is the notion you will leave them as well; knowing this ahead of time can help you structure your answers during the interview as well as talking about your employment experience.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Australia's automobile meltdown; China on track to hit growth target; Alphabet balloon provides internet

1 Australia’s automobile meltdown (Hywel Griffith on BBC) Australia's final locally made car left the production line on Friday when Holden stopped manufacturing in the nation. It is considered the end of an era after similar exits by Ford and Toyota.

"We love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars." The chorus to Holden's 1970s TV advert tells you everything you need to know about the company that gave Australia its first homegrown, mass-produced motorcar. Or almost everything - since 1931, this all-Aussie brand has in fact been owned by the American giant General Motors.

It is Holden's position in the global market that is key to understanding the rise and fall of car manufacturing in Australia. Holden started off as an Adelaide saddle-maker before adapting to the arrival of motorbikes and cars by supplying upholstery and vehicle bodies.

Following World War Two, it got the backing of the Australian government, which wanted to kickstart domestic car manufacturing and give the nation some global status. The birth of the first Holden 48-215 in 1948 began the public's love affair with "Australia's own car", which would blossom over the decades.

But by 2013, with decades of government subsidies drying up, the writing was on the wall and Holden announced it could no longer afford to manufacture cars in Australia. With Ford and Toyota already having ceased production in Australia, Holden said its vehicles would also be built abroad. For now, the story of "Australia's own car" seems to be at the end of the road.


2 China on track to hit growth target (Dawn) China’s economy is on track to meet its official growth target for 2017, the head of the state planning agency has said, despite a punishing war on pollution which is expected to slash industrial output over the winter months.

China has forced 28 cities in smog-prone northern regions to reduce emissions of airborne particles known as PM2.5 by at least 15 per cent from October to March 2017. But officials with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said the world’s second-largest economy will remain on track.

“We expect to achieve the full-year growth target of about 6.5pc,” He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, told a briefing on the sidelines of China’s Communist Party Congress.

Most economists believe China’s actual growth should easily beat the target. The economy grew 6.8pc in the third quarter of the year, and 6.9pc in the first half. Last year’s growth rate of 6.7pc was a 26-year low.

China’s economy has surprised global markets and investors with robust growth so far this year, driven by a renaissance in its long-ailing “smokestack” industries such as steel and stronger demand from Europe and the US.


3 Alphabet balloon provides internet (Khaleej Times) Experimental communications balloons provided by Alphabet in collaboration with AT&T will allow some of the carrier's customers in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico to send texts and access critical information on the internet.

Alphabet said the "Project Loon" balloon project would deliver limited internet connectivity to LTE enabled phones in the hardest-hit areas of Puerto Rico. The island's wireless and broadband communications networks were devastated after Hurricane Maria made landfall last month.

This month, the US Federal Communications Commission approved Alphabet's application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico using up to 30 balloons. The company said it does not expect to use that many since each balloon can provide internet service to an area of roughly 5,000 square kilometres, or 1,930 square miles. Puerto Rico's area is 3,515 square miles.

Alphabet said this was "the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we're still learning how best to do this. As we get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region, we hope to keep the balloons over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible."


Friday, October 13, 2017

After record profit, Samsung CEO quits; Dream run for bitcoins; Twitter 'crawling with bots'

1 After record profit, Samsung CEO quits (Straits Times) Samsung Electronics said that its chief executive officer and vice-chairman Kwon Oh Hyun plans to step down from management, deepening concerns over a leadership vacuum at the technology giant after group scion Lee Jae Yong was jailed for bribery.

The surprise resignation of Samsung's chip and display head came as he was expected to take a bigger role following Lee's arrest in February and the departures of other key executives in the wake of the bribery scandal.

The move came on the same day the South Korean smartphone-maker forecast record third-quarter operating profit on the back of the memory chip business, which Mr Kwon was instrumental in building into the world leader.

Mr Kwon, 64, is seen as Samsung Group's No. 2. As well as being chairman of the board and a board director, he heads the components business - including memory chips - and the display business. In a statement, the man known as "Mr Chip" said the time had come to "start anew with new spirit and young leadership".

The world's biggest maker of memory chips, smartphones and TVs is set to smash its annual profit record this year, thanks partly to soaring demand for memory chips. Semiconductors were Samsung's top earner in the three months through June, bringing in a record eight trillion won.


2 Dream run for bitcoins (Khaleej Times) Bitcoin may be in for a sustained record run as it overcomes key obstacles, experts said after the cryptocurrency set a new record high. Even bitcoin fans were plagued by doubts over the summer when Chinese regulators cracked down on exchanges trading the virtual currency and a dispute among developers gave birth to a new version, splitting the market of the budding currency.

In September, banking regulators in Beijing and Shanghai ordered local cryptocurrency exchanges to shut down. But observers say they are now detecting a rethink by the Chinese authorities, causing bitcoin to surge past the $5,800 level for the first time since its launch eight years ago.

Should rumours reported in state media be confirmed, then what is by far the most well-known and traded of more than 1,000 so-called cryptocurrencies could soar to even greater heights, experts predict. "There has been a period of uncertainty but that has not lasted. China represents more than 60 percent of trading.

The virtual currency is created through blockchain technology, which publicly records transaction details including the unique alphanumeric strings that identify buyers and sellers - technology which is gaining increasing currency among banks and companies.


3 Twitter ‘crawling with bots’ (Selina Wang in San Francisco Chronicle) One day last week, the exterior of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters bore an eerie message: “Ban Russian Bots.” 

Someone — the company doesn’t know who — projected the demand onto the side of its building.
Bots, or automated software programs, can be programmed to periodically send out messages on the Internet. Now Twitter is scrambling to explain how bots controlled by Russian meddlers may have been used to impact the 2016 president election.

Twitter was designed to be friendly to bots. They can help advertisers quickly spread their messages and respond to customer service complaints. Research from the University of Southern California and Indiana University shows that 9 to 15 percent of active Twitter accounts are bots. Many innocuously tweet headlines, the weather or Netflix releases.

Teaching Twitter’s algorithms to find malicious tweeters is challenging. Russian meddlers in particular are complementing their networks of bots with human laborers who are paid to tweet coordinated messages at the same time. It can be difficult for Twitter’s algorithms to detect the difference, according to a person familiar with the matter.

And cracking down on bots puts Twitter in a vulnerable position with Wall Street. Investors have penalized the company for failing to get more users. The more that Twitter cracks down on fake accounts and bots, the lower the monthly active user base, the metric most closely watched by Wall Street.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Catalonia edges towards statehood; Saudi Arabia back in recession; Japan business mood at decade's high

1 Catalonia edges towards statehood (BBC) Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says the Spanish region has won the right to statehood following a contentious referendum that was marred by violence. He said the door had been opened to a unilateral declaration of independence.

Catalan officials later said 90% of those who voted backed independence in Sunday's vote. The turnout was 42.3%. Spain's constitutional court had declared the poll illegal and hundreds of people were injured as police used force to try to block voting.

Officers seized ballot papers and boxes at polling stations. Mr Puigdemont said the European Union could no longer "continue to look the other way". In another development, more than 40 trade unions and Catalan associations called a region-wide strike on Tuesday due to "the grave violation of rights and freedoms".

Earlier, as voting ended, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Catalans had been fooled into taking part in an illegal vote. He called it a "mockery" of democracy.


2 Saudi Arabia back in recession (Khaleej Times) Saudi Arabia's economy has slipped back into recession as the oil sector stagnates and the government sector is hit by austerity policies designed to curb a state budget deficit caused by low oil prices, official data has shown.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, shrank 2.3 per cent from the previous quarter in the April-June period, after dropping 3.8 per cent in the first quarter. Economists generally define a recession as two straight quarters of shrinking GDP, measured by quarter-on-quarter rates. Saudi Arabia was last in recession in early 2016.

A price-supporting agreement among global oil producers caused Saudi Arabia to reduce its oil output early this year, pulling down GDP. The oil sector shrank 1.8 per cent from a year ago in the second quarter after a 2.3 per cent fall in the first.

The government has said it plans a stimulus package in the fourth quarter of the year. The size of the package is not clear, and fresh austerity steps to eliminate the budget deficit by 2020 are likely to weigh on growth. Saudi Arabia plans to introduce a 5 per cent value-added tax on many goods in January, and authorities are considering a rise in domestic fuel prices.


3 Japan business mood at decade's high (Straits Times) Big manufacturers have more confidence in Japan's business conditions than they have had for a decade as global demand adds momentum to economic recovery, a closely watched central bank survey shows.

The upbeat data supports Bank of Japan policymakers' hopes that a sustained economic recovery will boost wages and household spending, helping to accelerate inflation towards the central bank's ambitious 2 per cent target.

The Bank of Japan "tankan" survey could also help premier Shinzo Abe as he tries to convince voters in an Oct 22 election that his "Abenomics" stimulus policies have improved their livelihoods, analysts say.

Japan's economy expanded at an annualised 2.5 per cent in the second quarter on robust consumer and corporate spending, heightening hopes of a sustained recovery. While slowing down from the second quarter's exceptionally fast growth, the economy is likely to have expanded 1.1 per cent in the July-September period, according to a Reuters poll.