US, S Korea FTA talks

SEOUL: The US and South Korea resume long-running free-trade (FTA) talks on Monday with hopes receding of a deal between two countries whose annual trade already tops $70 billion. Some 15,000 troops will guard against possible violent protests as negotiators, now meeting for a sixth time, try to forge accord ahead of the next round of talks in February. — AFP

China cuts fuel prices

BEIJING: China has cut the price of domestic petrol by about four per cent and jet fuel by around two per cent in response to a decline in world oil prices. China’s main planning agency said that the price cuts were effective immediately. The Xinhua News Agency said the move followed complaints from consumers who demanded domestic prices reflect the international market trend. — AP

US outlook improves

WASHINGTON: Economists are hastily upgrading their forecasts for the US economy after a series of surprisingly strong reports suggesting the so-called ‘soft landing’ may be over and growth is accelerating. Over the past week, surprises have come in stronger-than-expected reports on US job creation, the trade balance and retail sales — all key contributors to economic activity. — AFP

Support for output cut

CARACAS: Venezuela and Iran have agreed to call for a production cut by the OPEC, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said. Speaking after talks with visiting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Chavez said the two countries agreed to back a production cut in the cartel to stem a recent fall in crude prices. “We know today there is too much crude in the market,” he said. — AP

Economy gets on a roll

FRANKFURT: Germany, once derided as the ‘sick man of Europe’, has suddenly bounced back with its economy booming and budget overspending slashed after long and painful economic reforms. Only a few years ago, Germany, with the eurozone’s biggest economy, also had the lowest growth and one of the highest deficits. Data showed that Germany’s economic fortunes improved dramatically last year when growth hit a six-year high and the public deficit was hacked back by a third. — AFP

BoJ likely to hold rates

TOKYO: Japan’s economic and fiscal policy minister on Sunday put pressure on the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to reconsider reported plans to announce a rate hike during this week’s policy board meeting. “Currently, spending is weakening,” Hiroko Ota said. “The Japanese economy is facing a crucial phase as it is still possible for the economy to retreat to deflation.” — AFP

Honda’s second plant

NEW DELHI: Honda Motors plans to set up a $200 million car plant in India to take advantage of its apidly-growing vehicle market. The new plant will be Honda’s second in India and will be built in the western state of Rajasthan. It will have an initial production capacity of 50,000 units. Honda, which already has a manufacturing facility in Noida, has signed a letter of intent with Rajasthan. — AFP