Germany, France sluggish

BRUSSELS: Eurozone figures due out in the coming week will show the bloc’s powerhouse German and French economies are still sluggish. In Britain, the Bank of England’s rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee is expected to keep its key repo rate unchanged at 4.75 per cent at a meeting on Thursday. Bank of America economist Lorenzo Codogno said the closely watched German ZEW index for January, due out on Tuesday, was unlikely to show significant improvement in German economic momentum. — AFP

V’zuelan refinery reopens

CARACAS: Venezuela’s Puerto La Cruz refinery is expected to resume operations on Sunday, two days after a power outage damaged the plant’s cooling equipment. Repairs on the 200,000 barrel-a-day refinery’s cooling equipment were completed Saturday, said a statement issued by Petroleos de Venezuela, S A (PDVSA). The outage occured around noon on Friday when Electricidad de Oriente, which supplies homes and businesses in eastern Venezuela with electricity, experienced a system failure. — AP

Asian tourism disaster

SINGAPORE: Thailand and Sri Lanka have been scarred but tourism in Asia remains largely unhurt by the tsunami disaster despite the massive devastation of coastal areas. Booking cancellations have had the most impact on coastal areas of southwest Thailand whose idyllic beaches were ravaged by quake-generated waves that left over 5,000 people dead, half of them western holidaymakers. — AFP

United, staff agreement

CHICAGO: United Airlines reached a tentative contract agreement with its flight attendants’ union, but the deal does not address the employee pension plans that have become a key point of contention. Although details of the contract were not disclosed, the Association of Flight Attendants said the contract does not include changes to employee pensions, which the Elk Grove Village-based airline said it must eliminate to save funds and emerge from bankruptcy. — AP

Smuggling claims hit BAT

London: Britain’s biggest tobacco company was yesterday hit by fresh allegations that it had colluded in a multi-million-pound smuggling operation. The explosive new revelations focus on British American Tobacco’s (BAT) activities in Canada and come almost a year after an investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry found no evidence to justify claims the company had been involved in smuggling operations across the globe. — The Guardian

Support for tsunami-hit

Colombo: World Bank president James D Wolfensohn says the bank will support the Sri Lankan government in ‘a fast, transparent and effective way’ to assist the tsunami-hit communities to rebuild their homes. “The international community has shown its tremendous support for the entire region,” Xinhua quoted Wolfensohn as saying here today, “The World Bank will support the government as it develops a fast, transparent and effective way to

convert the billions of dollars pledged all over the world into the rupee in the hands of the poor fisherman in Sri Lanka to repair his boat or for a community to rebuild its homes.” — HNS