Currency diplomacy

WASHINGTON: Two years of quiet diplomacy by the Bush administration did not persuade China to change its currency system. So the US now is turning up the volume, even enlisting the help of financial heavyweights such as Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. US critics contend it will take more than just talk to force China to scrap a system they blame for America’s soaring trade deficit and the loss of nearly three million manufacturing jobs. — AP

Industrial output up

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s industrial output rose by five per cent year-on-year in March and increased by 1.1 per cent from February. The year-on-year rise in March industrial output reflected growth in all sectors, with electricity up by eight per cent, mining up by six per cent and manufacturing up by 4.4 per cent. — AFP

Swiss jobless rate falls

BERN: Switzerland’s unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage points in April to 3.8 per cent, marking the second straight month of decline. About 150,671 people were officially registered as unemployed in April, 5,010 less than the previous month. The unemployment rate reached 4.1 per cent in February after rising through the final months of 2004. — AFP

Extending work hour

MUNICH: Fujitsu-Siemens, Europe’s leading maker of personal computers, wants to extend working hours for its employees without any corresponding increase in pay, chairman Bernd Bischoff said. “It’s the only way we’ll be able to keep 5,000 jobs in Germany,” he said, pointing to increased competition. — AFP

Munich Re profit rises

MUNICH: Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, said on Monday that business this year got off to a good start, with earnings up sharply in the first three months. Munich Re said in a statement it booked net profit of $881 million in the period from January to March, up by 26.7 per cent on the year-earlier period. — AFP

Deutsche Post profits

BONN: Deutsche Post, the semi-privatised German postal service, said on Monday it was able to lift earnings in the first three months of the current year and was confident for the year as a whole. Deutsche Post said that it had booked net profit of $582 million in the period from January to March, up by two per cent from the year-earlier period. — AFP

SK Telecom fined

SEOUL: South Korean regulators on Monday fined SK Telecom, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, and two other firms $26.8 million for offering illegal handset subsidies. The regulators said they hope the latest measure will keep firms from engaging in unfair competition. They plan to step up surveys and inspections on the mobile operators as part of a bid to prevent illegal practices. — AP

JAL returns to black

TOKYO: Asia’s top carrier Japan Airlines said it returned to profit in the year to March, recovering from the SARS scare, but maintained its current year forecast that net profit would shrink due to high fuel costs. JAL earned a net profit of $287 million in last year, reversing a loss a year earlier, after cutting costs. — AFP