BIZ BRIEFS

Aussie economy picks up

SYDNEY:

The Australian economy is showing no signs of a widely tipped slowdown and is set to outstrip the strong growth recorded in 2004. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading index of economic activity — which points to pace of activity six to nine months ahead — rose to 5.8 per cent in November, above its trend of four per cent. — AFP

Oberthur bags US deal

ARIS:

French credit card maker Oberthur Card Systems had been chosen by the US Government Printing Office as a provider of technology for the development and tests of a future electronic US passport. The company did not provide financial details. — AFP

German trade surplus up

FRANKFURT:

Germany posted a record trade surplus in 2004 of $202.9 billion, despite the euro’s increase in value against the dollar. The value of exports by Europe’s largest economy increased by 10 per cent, the statistics office said. — AFP

Jobless rate dips in HK

HONG KONG:

Hong Kong’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 per cent in the last quarter of 2004 - its lowest level in nearly three years. The latest jobless figure compared to 6.7 per cent for the three-month period ending in November. — AP

Current account deficit

MILAN:

Italian current account deficit narrowed in November to $2.65 billion from 2.13 billion last year. A reduction in merchandise account surplus offset a drop in deficit in services account. — AFP

Business outlook gloomy

WELLINGTON:

Business confidence in New Zealand improved in the final quarter of last year but companies still have a gloomy view of the future. The survey found six per cent of firms still expected general business conditions to deteriorate. — AFP