HSBC feels threatened

LONDON: The HSBC has highlighted the threat from India to Scotland’s huge call centre sector as the foremost challenge facing Scottish economy. The bank, although generally upbeat about Scotland’s economic prospects as the manufacturing sector recovers and services companies continue to drive ahead, warns in its 2004 Regional Focus Report that the growth of the call centre industry was coming to an end. — HNS

OPEC urged to raise price

CARACAS: Venezuela’s oil minister said that Venezuela is urging the OPEC to increase the ceiling of the it’s preferential price band to $30. The top end of the price band, set by OPEC in mid-2000, should be raised from $28 to $30. The price band was designed to adjust output quotas by 500,000 barrels per day if the average price of a barrel of oil rose above $28 for 20 consecutive days or below $22 for 10 consecutive days. — AP

Industrial output dips

WASHINGTON: Housing construction rebounded with gusto in March, rising by 6.4 per cent, the largest increase in 10 months. But production at America’s industries fell. The commerce department reported that the number of residential projects that builders started last month clocked in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2 million units, representing a 6.4 per cent rise. — AP

Czech economy loses lure

PRAGUE: The Czech Republic was the destination of choice for foreign investors in central Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain, but companies from abroad are now worried about the slow pace of reforms. The Czech Republic “is heading for a decline unless it tackles the reforms it has postponed countless times,” said Dieter Manowski, head of the Czech Eco Forum. — AFP

Norway looks to gas

STAVANGER: Thirty-three years of prosperous oil production have secured Norway a seat among the world’s richest nations, but with its petroleum reserves slipping, it has begun sniffing out the promise held by its abundant natural gas resources. — AFP