US economy expands

WASHINGTON: The US economy expanded by a meagre 1.6 per cent in the last three months of 2005 from a year ago, according to the latest government estimate, but analysts expect growth to rebound quickly. The Commerce Department raised its estimate for fourth-quarter GDP annual growth from its first figure of 1.1 per cent given last month. — AFP

BoJ to limit rate hike

TOKYO: The Bank of Japan (BoJ) is considering plans for limiting the prospective rise in short- and long-term rates as the central bank prepares to end its super-loose monetary policy. The bank is expected to ensure that the uncollateralised overnight call rate does not exceed 0.1 per cent, effectively keeping the key short-term rate close to zero. — AFP

Aussie growth falters

SYDNEY: Australia’s faltering economy struggled for growth in the final quarter of 2005, despite a resources boom providing exporters with their best prices in decades. The figures showed the economy grew just by 0.5 per cent in the three months to December as the manufacturing sector continued to underperform and a long-awaited upturn in exports failed to materialise. — AFP

Trade surplus drops

SEOUL: South Korea’s trade surplus shrank sharply in February due to a surge in imports and high oil prices. The February trade surplus stood at 538 million, compared to $2.01 billion a year ago. In the first two months, the surplus plunged to $1.04 billion from $5.01 billion a year earlier. In February, exports rose by 17.4 per cent year-on-year to $23.96 billion, while imports climbed by 27.3 per cent to $23.42 billion. — AFP

Thai inflation eases

BANGKOK: Thailand’s inflation rate eased to 5.6 per cent year-on-year in February due to falling food prices, after record crude costs drove the cost of living sharply higher in the second half of last year. Inflation has steadily decreased since peaking at 6.2 per cent in October 2005. — AFP

Eurozone inflation up

BRUSSELS: Twelve-month inflation in the eurozone eased slightly in February to 2.3 per cent from 2.4 per cent in January. The forecast, which was based on partial figures, was in line with private economists’ forecasts. If confirmed, February figure would mean that inflation exceeded the ECB’s preferred level of close to but less than two per cent. — AFP