Crude prices fall

SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell through the key $63 support level in Asian trade on Wednesday as geopolitical concerns faded. At New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, was down at $62.86 a barrel after skidding by $2.02 to close at $63 in the US on Tuesday. — AFP

Taiwan’s exports up

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s exports grew by 4.5 per cent year-on-year in January to $16.84 billion, after a 15.4 per cent rise to $17.17 billion in December. Imports in January fell by seven per cent year-on-year to $14.51 billion, compared with the 10.9 per cent decrease to $14.24 billion last month. It posted a trade surplus of $2.33 billion in January, compared with a surplus of $2.93 billion in December. — AFP

Industrial output falls

BERLIN: Industrial output in Germany declined again in December after contracting in November, weighed down by falling activity in the key manufacturing sector. German industrial output fell by 0.5 per cent in December from the figure for November, after already slipping by 0.4 per cent the previous month. The main factor behind the decrease was a 0.8 per cent drop in output in the manufacturing sector. — AFP

Aussie economy fine

SYDNEY: Two surveys released on Tuesday highlighted a softening of business conditions in Australia, with one predicting that manufacturers will cut jobs and other costs to ride out more difficult times. The National Australia Bank’s quarterly business survey found trading conditions, profitability and employment slipping at the end of 2005 and predicted a further slowing in the March quarter of this year. — AFP

New oil reserves

SEOUL: An international consortium involving South Korean firms has discovered new oil and gas reserves off Vietnam’s southern coast. An oil field in Vietnam’s Su Tu Trang zone was found to have additional oil reserves totaling 300 million barrels and up to four trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The consortium includes South Korea’s largest oil refiner SK Corp and the state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC), which have already discovered oil deposits in the field. — AFP

Forest management

DHADING: RIMS-Nepal has initiated non-timber forest products management in 10 VDCs of Northern belt of Dhading including Fulkharka, Baseri, Budhathumri, Lapa, Setung, Jharlang, Gumdi, darkha, and Satyadevi with a view to mobilising local resources. According to RIMS-Nepal, the programme will contribute to the management and preservation of locally available resources, institutional capacity building of group network involving resource management, promotion and development of indigenous resource based enterprises and commercialisation of local non-timber forest products. — RSS

BoC plans IPOs soon

SHANGHAI: Bank of China (BoC), the country’s third largest bank, plans to list in Hong Kong in May and later wants to raise more cash by selling shares on domestic markets. The lender, one of China’s four major state-owned banks, has filed its dual-listing plan with the State Council or cabinet and expects the initial public offering (IPO) of Hong Kong in May. After the issue of shares in Hong Kong, BoC will then issue shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. — AFP

Aussie rates on hold

SYDNEY: Australia’s central bank on Wednesday left its key interest rate unchanged at 5.5 per cent for the 11th consecutive month amid continuing signs of a softening of economic growth. The Reserve Bank of Australia last increased its official cash rate in March 2005, by 0.25 of a percentage point, to rein in inflationary pressures from a booming housing market. — AFP

US consumer credit

WASHINGTON: American consumers, weighed down by high debt loads and low savings rates, increased borrowing last year by the smallest amount in 13 years. The government said that borrowing on credit cards, auto loans and other forms of consumer debt rose by three per cent in 2005, down from rates above four per cent in the previous three years and a 7.7 per cent surge in 2001. It was the smallest increase since a one per cent rise in 1992. — AP