Industrial output slows


Growth in China’s industrial output slowed abruptly in January to 8.9 per cent as policy makers continued their efforts to rein in Asia’s second-largest economy, official data showed on Friday. The headline growth rate, announced by the National Bureau of Statistics, marked a steep drop from 14.4 per cent in December and an even deeper decline from 19.1 per cent in January last year. — AFP

Lower growth in Australia


The head of Australia’s central bank warned on Friday that interest rates are likely to rise and said economic growth could slow because the country could not meet global demand for its resource exports. Reserve Bank governor Ian Macfarlane said Australia’s docks and railways were struggling to cope with demand for resources exports and an economic slowdown appeared inevitable. — AFP

S’pore budget up by 7.4pc


Singapore’s military was the big winner in the national budget unveiled on Friday with defence spending to grow by 7.4 per cent to 9.26 billion Singapore dollars ($5.8 billion US). The defence outlay accounts for 31.2 per cent of the 29.68 billion dollar national budget for the fiscal year ending March 2006 that prime minister and finance minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled before parliament. — AFP

Yukos turns to US court


Unfriendly Russian and a European courts that offers no protection drove embattled Russian oil company Yukos to seek help to regain solvency in a US bankruptcy court, its lead lawyer said. “This is the last place that this company has to have the opportunity to survive as an ongoing concern,” Yukos lawyer Zack Clement told US Bankruptcy Judge Letitia Clark, at the close of a two-day hearing on Deutsche Bank’s effort to convince her to throw out the case for lack of jurisdiction over a Russian company subject to Russian law. — AFP

Banks plan mega merger


Two Japanese banking giants announced on Friday the terms of their merger planned for later this year that will create the world’s largest bank, including proposals for jobs cuts, targeted profits and a merger ratio. Two of Japan’s “Big Four” banks, Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group Inc and UFJ Holdings Inc, agreed last year to merge their operations — a combination with assets totaling nearly $1.8 billion. – AP

French economy expands


France broke a two-year pattern of growth in 2004 when the economy expanded 2.3 per cent from 2003 and 0.8 per cent in the fourth quarter compared with the third, the national statistics institute INSEE reported. The results, adjusted for seasonal and other variations, meant that France eclipsed eurozone partners Germany and Italy, which saw fourth quarter growth contract 0.2 and 0.3 per cent respectively. — AFP