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Korean, US forces lower alert status: report

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:10 am

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea has lowered its military alert status, prompting similar moves by Seoul and US forces as tensions on the Korean peninsula showed signs of easing, a report said Friday.

The apparent moves came as South Korea held its latest war games to simulate an infiltration by North Korean troops across the disputed Yellow Sea border, officials said.

Tensions have been high since the North shelled South Korea’s frontline Yeonpyeong island on November 23.

Yonhap news agency quoted unidentified South Korean government sources as saying that the North recently lifted a special alert it issued on November 21 for its military forces on the coast near the tense sea border.

“The North Korean military recently withdrew an order for special military readiness it had issued in connection with our Hoguk military drills (in November),” a source was quoted as saying.

The South Korean military and US forces in South Korea had consequently reduced their own alert status by one notch to a normal level, the source said.

A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report.

But he told AFP the computerised military exercise involving the South Korean navy and marines “began as planned”, declining to give details.

Navy officials said Friday’s manoeuvres were designed to enhance the South’s capability to repel a surprise landing on islands.

Command posts were involved in the simulated war games but it was unclear whether troops were involved in any physical manoeuvres.

Besides the shelling in November, the North also raised security fears that month by disclosing a uranium enrichment plant to visiting US experts.

But after a difficult year on the Korean peninsula, 2011 started on a more peaceful note.

The North began the year calling for improved relations with Seoul, while South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak Monday also reached out, saying he was open to talks and offering closer economic ties.

Efforts to resume long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks with the North also gained momentum as Beijing urged dialogue and Pyongyang signalled it was willing to return to the negotiating table.

In an unusually cordial statement, carried by its KCNA agency, North Korea said Wednesday the communist nation “courteously proposes having wide-ranging dialogue and negotiations”.

But South Korean officials were dismissive of the comments.

Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-Sik said on KBS radio that the North should show seriousness of purpose by acting on its obligations under a 2005 agreement on denuclearisation and apologising for the November shelling and the sinking of a South Korean warship last year.

Amid the more positive tone, Japan’s foreign minister called for renewed dialogue on the divided Korean peninsula in Washington on Thursday, but said the North should first take “concrete actions” to lower tensions.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC. AFP

“The nuclear and missile development issue of DPRK (North Korea) is a cause for major concern,” Seiji Maehara said in a speech to a Washington think tank before meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“What is most important is that a North Korea-South Korea dialogue be opened up,” Maehara said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Source: SGGP

Asian stock markets lower amid Korean hostilities

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 6:50 am

 Asian stock markets mostly fell Wednesday as investors exited riskier assets amid a tense military standoff between North and South Korea and grew more worried there may be no immediate end in sight to Europe’s debt crisis.

Oil prices rose slightly to near $82 a barrel in Asia as a report showing an unexpected jump in crude inventories provided mixed signals on demand. In currencies, the dollar rose against the yen but was lower against the euro.

South Korea’s financial markets opened sharply lower Wednesday the day after an artillery clash between North and South Korea sent tensions on their divided peninsula soaring. The Kospi index fell 3.3 percent in the opening minutes, though quickly pared losses and was 0.4 percent lower in early afternoon trading at 1,921.29.

A man walks in front of the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average fell 0.7 percent to 10,044.52, after briefly falling below the 10,000 mark earlier in the session.

The South Korean won, meanwhile, dropped 2.6 percent against the dollar in early trading, but also recovered to trade 1 percent lower.

Rommel Lee, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp. in Seoul, said that China’s call for a peaceful solution to the tension on the Korean peninsula helped calm nerves among investors Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Tuesday called on both sides, without naming them, “to do more to contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula.”

“China saying to North Korea, ‘find a peaceful solution to this incident’ caused a positive reaction in the market, and overall it limited the negative effect,” said Lee.

As market jitters over the Korean peninsula eased, investors began to worry anew that the much ballyhooed bailout of Ireland’s banking sector may not be enough to contain Europe’s debt crisis. Stock traders panicked and dumped European shares Tuesday, sending Portugal’s benchmark stock index down 2.2 percent by the close. The euro slid below $1.34 for the first time in two months as investors sought the relatively safety of the dollar.

Spooked by the scale of Greece’s bailout requirements in May and Ireland’s banking failures, international investors are looking much closer at the public finances of eurozone countries and they don’t like what they’re seeing, particularly in Portugal.

“For a while now, investors were pretty complacent over the European credit woes. So I think investors have underestimated how long the Irish problem may drag out,” said Sean Darby, chief Asia Strategist at Nomura Global Equity Research in Hong Kong.

Shares in Australia, Taiwan, and New Zealand were lower, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.7 percent to 23,054.61. Benchmarks in Singapore and Shanghai also rose.

The Korean incident had less of an effect on U.S. markets, but investors there still dumped shares heading into the Thanksgiving holiday. Sentiment was also hurt as the Federal Reserve lowered its growth forecast for next year.

In a report releasing minutes from its last meeting Nov. 3, the Fed predicted that the economy will grow only 2.4 percent to 2.5 percent this year. That’s down sharply from a previous projection of 3 percent to 3.5 percent. Next year, the economy will expand by 3 percent to 3.6 percent, the Fed said, also much lower than its June forecast.

Wednesday will bring an unusually large amount of economic data since several reports that normally come out Thursday are being moved up because of the holiday. Reports are due out on weekly claims for unemployment benefits, durable goods and personal income.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.3 percent to 11,036.37, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 1.4 percent to 1,180.73.

Benchmark oil for January delivery was up 37 cents to $81.62 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 49 cents to settle at $81.25 on Tuesday.

In currencies, the dollar rose slightly to 83.24 yen from 83.16 late Tuesday in New York. The euro rose to $1.3397 from $1.3363.

Source: SGGP

Japan’s lower house approves 60 billion dollar stimulus

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

Asian markets lower as dealers await US jobs data

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2010 at 10:13 am

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian shares fell in quiet trade on Friday with Japanese investors unmoved by the election of a new prime minister while most dealers stayed on the sidelines ahead of key US jobs figures.

Asian shares have fallen in quiet trade with Japanese investors unmoved by the election of a new prime minister (AFP file)

Tokyo’s Nikkei fell and the yen edged lower after former finance minister Naoto Kan, a supporter of a weaker currency and proponent of deflation-fighting measures, was confirmed as the country’s new leader.

Japanese shares closed 0.13 percent, or 13 points, lower at 9,901.19 after Kan succeeded Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned Wednesday over the bungled handling of a US base dispute.

The index had already soared 3.24 percent Thursday, with dealers pricing in expectations that Kan would take the helm of the world’s second biggest economy.

Despite his preference for a weaker yen, which would be good for the country’s key exporters, dealers stuck with the safe-haven unit due to lingering fears over Europe’s debt problems.

The dollar edged up to 92.73 yen in late Tokyo trade, from 92.69 in New York Thursday. The euro rose to 112.88 yen from 112.74 and to 1.2179 dollars from 1.2158.

Analysts had predicted the dollar could pass 93 yen if Kan was elected prime minister. But Mizuho Securities strategist Tsuyoshi Segawa told Dow Jones Newswires: “It is still hard to say if the market really wants ‘DPJ victory-inspired stability’ in the upcoming election.”

Japan will hold upper house elections next month where the Democratic Party of Japan must win a majority to free itself of its coalition partner and ensure a smooth enactment of legislature.

Sydney fell 0.82 percent, or 36.6 points, to 4,449.4. Hong Kong lost 0.30 percent by the break and Singapore was flat.

Dealers moved to sell off and take the cash after Thursday’s rallies, which were boosted by strong US housing data.

Markets were given a weaker lead from Wall Street Friday as the Dow edged up just 0.06 percent after a mixed batch of news showing a weekly drop in initial unemployment claims and a disappointing report on private-sector job creation.

However, focus was on a US Labor Department report due later Friday that will reveal job creation and unemployment figures for May, giving a much clearer idea of the state of recovery in the world’s biggest economy.

Most analysts expect the government will report 500,000 non-farm jobs were created last month, up from 290,000 in April, as the economy mounts a slow recovery from recession.

Unemployment was expected to dip to 9.8 percent from 9.9 percent in April.

Shanghai gave up 0.49 percent, with heavyweight banks leading the fall amid pressures over the imminent launch of Agricultural Bank’s massive initial public offering, dealers said. Many fear the issue could dilute the market, putting pressure on prices.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday warned Hungary to cut its budget deficit faster in order to pull itself out of a “delicate situation” amid fears it risked a Greek-like debt crisis.

Oil was lower. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July shed 29 cents to 74.32 dollars a barrel while Brent North Sea crude for July dropped 31 cents to 75.10 dollars per barrel.

Gold opened at 1,206.00-1,207.00 US dollars an ounce in Hong Kong, down from Thursday’s close of 1,223.00-1,224.00 dollars.

In other markets:

— Seoul closed 0.14 percent, or 2.29 points, higher at 1,664.13.

— Taipei fell 0.21 percent, or 15.69 points, to 7,344.59.

IT giant Hon Hai was 0.8 percent lower at 124.5 Taiwan dollars while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company rose 0.33 percent to 61.0

— Manila closed flat, edging up 1.82 points to 3,357.05.

SM Prime Holdings was unchanged at 11.00 pesos, Banco de Oro Unibank fell 1.0 percent to 46.00 and Ayala Corp was off 2.9 percent at 325.00.

— Wellington added 0.20 percent, or 6.04 points, to close at 3,030.14.

Telecom led the market higher, gaining 1.6 percent to 1.86 New Zealand dollars, but exchange operator NZX ended down 1.9 percent at 1.55.

Source: SGGP

Banks to begin offering lower loan interest rates

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2010 at 9:40 am

Following the State Bank of Vietnam’s directive to lower negotiable interest rates on loans, many joint stock commercial banks April 12 said they would offer loans at less than 15 percent per year to borrowers.

Le Xuan Nghia, deputy chairman of the National Finance Supervision Committee, said, “Since the Government ceased interest subsidies and monetary policies were tightened, credit growth has slowed.”

In the first quarter, credit growth was just 2.95 percent, of which credit growth in VND was only 0.57 percent, he said.

Customers perform transactions at an ACB bank in Da Nang City. The bank April 12 announced it would earmark VND20 trillion to make loans available to businesses at around 14 percent per year. (Photo:

Although the negotiable lending interest policy has been carried out for over one month, the credit balance at commercial banks has remained almost unchanged, since many businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said they could not afford loans at high lending rates of 16-18 percent.

In addition, SMEs have also faced another impediment to borrowing capital – they have no mortgage to secure bank loans.

Since late 2009, the Vietnam Development Bank (VDB) has issued guarantee deeds to a number of borrowers wanting bank loans, but the amount they actually received from banks was modest, since banks tended to give priority to borrowers with mortgages.

Nguyen Chi Nguyen, general secretary of the HCMC Business Association, said commercial banks should assist SMEs in preparing feasible plans for use of lending capital to make them eligible for loans.

Many banks said they incurred higher expenses in mobilizing deposits in the first quarter, so they could not lower lending interest rates rapidly while they have yet to restrain input costs.

In recent days, most large commercial banks have lowered deposit interest rates to reduce overall operating expenses. One joint stock bank said it had reduced its average interest rate of 12 percent per year to 10.8 percent.

Ly Xuan Hai, general director of the Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), said both deposit and lending rates would decline in the near future. 

Based on the predicted inflation rate of 7 percent and also on exchange rates, lending rates are likely to reduce reasonably to benefit borrowers, he said.

Currently, the lending rates have been decreased from the previous 16-18 percent to 14-16 percent per year, equal to those in 2006 and 2007, Mr. Hai said.

On April 12, ACB announced it would earmark VND20 trillion (US$1.05 billion) to offer loans to businesses at around 14 percent per year.

Sacombank also said its loans would be offered at about 14 percent for businesses and exporters, and 13.8 percent for farmers.

Meanwhile, several other banks are giving priority to exporters, with loans offered at 12 percent.

A number of commercial banks have recently cooperated with foreign financial organizations, such as Japan International Cooperation Bank, the European Community, and Swiss Green Credit Fund, to launch soft credit projects to help businesses, especially SMEs.

In order to access loans easier, SMEs must also gain the confidence of lenders by improving their business capabilities, ensuring transparency of their business practices, and carrying out audits every year, banking experts have said.

Source: SGGP

Oil lower on signs of weaker demand

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

SINGAPORE, March 24, 2010 (AFP) – Oil prices fell in Asian trade Wednesday after nearing 82 dollars as a private report showing weaker US energy demand dampened sentiment, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for May delivery, dropped 71 cents to 81.20 dollars a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for May was down 60 cents to 80.10 dollars.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said late Tuesday crude stocks in the country, the world’s largest energy consumer, rose by 7.5 million barrels for the week ended March 19.

Analysts polled by Platts had forecast an increase of 1.67 million barrels.

“The increase was much larger than expected so it was slightly bearish. I think the market is readying itself for similar numbers (later),” said Serene Lim, a Singapore-based oil analyst with ANZ bank.

The US Department of Energy (DoE) will release its weekly inventory report later Wednesday. Most analysts expect the data to show an increase in crude oil stocks of 1.4 million barrels.

An increase in stockpiles indicates weaker demand.

A firmer US dollar in recent days has also kept oil prices down as uncertainty over a European plan to ease Greece’s debt crisis weighed on the euro, Lim said.

“The correlation between oil and the dollar has strengthened over the past few weeks and I think that’s also putting some pressure on oil prices,” she added.

As oil is traded in dollars, a stronger US currency makes the commodity more expensive to holders of weaker units and tends to dampen demand, leading to lower prices.

Oil prices had advanced to near 82 dollars a barrel Tuesday, lifted by gains in the US stock markets after a report from the National Association of Realtors showed existing-home sales fell lesser than expected in February.

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Lawmakers want lower budget deficit target next year

In Politics-Society on October 25, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Lawmakers want lower budget deficit target next year

QĐND – Sunday, October 25, 2009, 20:49 (GMT+7)

Vietnamese legislators said the 2010 budget deficit should be kept at 6 percent of gross domestic product instead of 6.5 percent as projected by the government.

Fiscal policies need to be tightened, Ho Chi Minh City representative Tran Du Lich said on Friday at a meeting of the National Assembly, the country’s highest lawmaking body.

If public capital spending was not monitored closely, there would be a high risk of inflation, he said.

Many lawmakers said it was necessary to tackle the growing deficit, which the National Assembly Finance and Budget Committee has forecast to stand at 6.9 percent of GDP this year, up from 4.1 percent in 2008. They wanted the government to cut the deficit to 6 percent next year.

But Finance Minister Vu Van Ninh said the government was aiming to keep the budget deficit at 6.5 percent of GDP in 2010 because revenue sources were not expected to grow next year.

Many tariff lines would be cut next year, reducing government revenue by around VND3 trillion, Ninh said.

As a result, if the budget deficit next year had to be cut to 6 percent, the government would need to ask localities to contribute more, or investment, social welfare and salaries would need to be reduced, he said.

“The important thing is government debt is still in the safe zone,” Ninh said, noting that many other countries also have budget deficits as they want to spend money for economic development.

Vietnam’s government debt is forecast to stand at 40 percent of its gross domestic product this year, up from 36.5 percent in 2007, the National Assembly Finance and Budget Committee said earlier this month. The debt may continue to surge to 44 percent of GDP next year.

However, Lich said Vietnam’s authorities were not excellent forecasters, implying that government revenue sources may not fall next year as expected by the government.

The government set the 2009 budget deficit target at 7 percent of GDP after there were forecasts that government revenue would fall by as much as VND60 trillion this year, Lich said.

But revenue has been on the rise so far this year, he said, asking why the full-year budget deficit was still expected to reach only 6.9 percent of GDP despite sharp revenue hikes.

Lich said although the government had not successfully raised funds through bond sales but “there was still enough money for investment.”

“So why did the government have to hold bond auctions in the first place?” he asked.

Vietnam’s government reportedly aimed to raise up to US$1 billion from bond issuances on the domestic market in 2009, Standard & Poor’s said in a report last month. “However, the weak demand for its offerings in late August suggests that this target is unlikely to be met. The low interest rate that the government was willing to pay did little to attract investor interest.”

Standard & Poor’s forecast government budget deficit to rise to 6.7 percent of GDP this year. “This reflects both an expectation of weaker economic performance in the year as well as countercyclical measures the government is undertaking,” said the US-based provider of independent investment research.

The forecast compares with an estimate of 10.3 percent of GDP by the Asian Development Bank last month.

Vietnam’s GDP growth this year is projected to hit a decade-low of 5.2 percent, in line with a target of around 5 percent set by legislators, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said on Tuesday.

Source: Thanh Nien, Agencies

Source: QDND Bookmark & Share

Milk prices rise despite lower costs

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Several dairy product producers and importers have raised prices despite a drop in the cost of raw materials in recent months. — VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuan

HCM CITY — A number of dairy product producers and importers have raised prices despite a drop in the price of raw materials in recent months.

Hanco Food Joint Stock Co deputy director Pham Ngoc Chau called the increase “unreasonable” in light of falling prices on the global market.

The price of skim milk powder has fallen by about US$1,000 per tonne to around $2,700-2,800, while whole milk powder was selling for $3,800 per tonne.

By jacking domestic prices, dairy importers were earning windfall profits, Chau added.

Meanwhile, the higher wholesale prices were being passed on directly to retail consumers.

The distributor of the Abbott milk brand in Viet Nam, 3A Pharmaceutical Products Co Ltd has raised the price of a 900g can of Pediasure BA milk powder by VND29,000 to VND352,000.

Le Huu Binh, deputy director of 3A, said the price hikes applied to new products with superior quality.

But a 900g can of Nestle’s Nan Pro milk powder has also gone up in price from VND325,000 ($19) to VND348,000 ($20.50), and the price of a can of condensed milk has risen by VND690 to VND3,800, depending on the brand, according to Citimart deputy director Ngo Van Hai.

And more is coming. Vinamilk will raise retail prices on powdered milk and other powdered nutrition products by VND1,000-6,000, with Vinamilk deputy director Tran Bao Minh blaming the increase on rising costs of packaging and milk fat.

While many of the companies pushing up prices say new packaging designs or products with more nutrient additives were costing more, nutritionists were arguing that additives such as taurine and choline have little benefit.

Chau said the Government needed to inspect the retail market more carefully to ensure protection of consumer rights. —

Lower petrol prices ease market fall

In Uncategorized on October 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Local stock indices kept falling as uncertainty in world financial markets continued. — VNS Photo Viet Thanh

HA NOI — Lower domestic petrol prices helped to slightly diminish the fall of local stock indices yesterday, as no signs of improvement were seen in the global financial market arena.

The retail price of A92 petrol was slashed by VND500 (3 US cents) per litre nation-wide by the Ministry of Finance yesterday to VND16,500.

The VN-Index slipped another 12.91 points or 3.12 per cent to close at 401.33. Liquidity improved, however, as trading volume increased 46.5 per cent to reach 14.65 million shares, with a total turnover of VND432.7 billion (US$26.2 million).

The HCM City Stock Exchange witnessed 127 losers yesterday, with most of them hitting the floor of the trading band. As many as 24 gained, while 13 remained unchanged.

Orders for Sacombank (STB), the most active code during the day, was 4.17 million shares, 2.5 times higher than Tuesday’s figure. This was followed by Phu My Fertilisers (DPM) with 1 million shares traded and Hoa Phat Group (HPG) with 515,000 units.

Foreign clients yesterday bought 1.6 million shares and unloaded 2.68 million units, with a net sales value of VND43.68 billion ($2.65 million).

The Ha Noi Securities Trading Centre meanwhile saw 128 losers and 18 winners.

The HASTC-Index closed 7.45 points lower, 5.52 per cent, to end at 127.53. Trading volume rose 43 per cent to more than 10 million shares for a total revenue of VND318.46 billion ($19.3 million).

Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) showed the most action on the northern market with 1.38 million shares changing hands. Petroleum Technical Services Corp (PVS) was next with about 812,000 shares traded, followed by Vinaconex Corp (VCG) with 560,000 units.

The domestic market would continue to see a downward trend following the US market moves, said Hoang Thi Hoa, director of Viet Capital Securities’ Research and Analysis Department.

“The market may determine a clearer trend at the end of this month when companies finish releasing their third quarter business results and some macro-level indexes are announced,” she said.

In the next few months, information that might influence the local exchange would be the possibility of [another] petrol price adjustment, the banking system’s credit growth and lower lending interest rates, said Hoa.

“The market enters the fourth quarter with great concern, because the domestic economy depends largely on export; the world economy is forecast to face more difficulties with the US financial crisis,” said Hoang Thach Lan, director of SME Securities’ Securities Investment Analysis.

Lan said the local market was feeling indirect impacts of the global recession through difficulties weighing down enterprises.

SME Securities data shows about 30 out of 160 companies listed on the HCM City Stock Exchange had cumulative turnovers for four quarters (from the third quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2008) shrink compared with the same period in 2006-2007.

Lending rates were still high, which would expand companies’ costs and diminish their profits between now and the end of the year, said Lan.

“However, the market may rebound at the end of the year as the prices of big stocks are getting attractive,” he said. —