SKorea, EU FTA talk

SEOUL: South Korea is ready to open talks next month with the EU on a FTA, president Roh Moo-Hyun said. Roh, speaking after a meeting with visiting Italian prime minister, said they ‘shared a common understanding of the enormous economic effects’ such an agreement would have. “South Korea concluded the FTA with the US despite fierce opposition by many South Koreans,” he said. — AFP

Plan to spend $32b

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, flush with huge oil revenues, said on Wednesday it had launched 1,800 development projects worth $32 billion in the kingdom’s capital Riyadh. The money is being spent across a wide range of sectors like health, education, housing and transportation. Saudi is the world’s leading oil producer and has 261.2 billion barrels reserves, or more than a quarter of the global total. — AFP

UK jobless rate drops

LONDON: The number of people claiming jobless benefits in Britain fell for the sixth month in a row in March. The count dropped by 9,200 from February to 910,800 people, adding that the figure has now fallen for eight of the last nine months. The unemployment rate stood at 2.9 per cent in March. The number of unemployed in Britain as measured by the ILO rose by 21,000 to 1.694 million in the three months to February. — AFP

Consumer sentiment

SYDNEY: Fears of an interest hike were on Wednesday blamed for keeping Australian consumer sentiment down despite record low unemployment and an historically strong currency. The Westpac Melbourne Institute Index found that consumer sentiment slipped from 115.5 points in March to 115.3 points in April. — AFP