Oil prices inch up

SINGAPORE: Oil prices inched up on Friday after slipping below US$65 a barrel in the previous session on easing fears about a possible disruption to Iranian oil supply. Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose 9 cents to $64.77 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange mid-afternoon in Singapore. The contract dropped $1.88 to settle at $64.68 a barrel on Thursday. March Brent futures rose 18 cents to $63.06 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange.—AP

EU row cools down

FRANKFURT: The European Commission has agreed to give the German government until 2007 to get its finances in order and will not press for sanctions against Berlin for repeatedly breaching EU budget rules, the Financial Times Deutschland reported on Friday. The newspaper said that Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Peer Steinbrueck, had reached a compromise agreement with the EU Commission, ending months of negotiations over the possible resumption of a so-called excessive deficit procedure against Germany. —AP

Tangling over gold

FRANKFURT: A long-simmering row between the German government and the Bundesbank over the use of Germany’s huge gold reserves looks set to come to the boil again as a result of new legislation drafted by the finance ministry, the Financial Times reported on Friday. The newspaper said it had obtained a copy of a draft appendix to the 2006 budget in which the German finance ministry had stated that future proceeds from gold sales should be put into a special fund, with future interest to be transferred to the federal government. —AFP

US, S Korea FTA blues

SEOUL: South Korea said Friday a free trade agreement with the United States would bring overall economic benefits to both countries, but analysts warned that poor Korean farmers would be on the losing end. The United States and South Korea agreed Thursday to launch talks for a free trade agreement (FTA), which President George W. Bush said would

expand America’s engagement in Asia. If clinched, the pact would be the largest US free trade accord in Asia, as South Korea is the third biggest economy in the region behind China and Japan.—AFP