A look at economic developments and stock market activity around the world Wednesday:
LONDON - Vandals attacked the home of former Royal Bank of
Scotland head Fred Goodwin, smashing windows at the house of the
ex-CEO whose 700,000 pound ($1.2 million) annual pension has
prompted public outrage. Police said they were called to the house
in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, early Wednesday. Goodwin
resigned as chief executive last year as RBS ran into severe
difficulties and had to be propped up by the British government.
Last month, RBS reported a loss of more than 24 billion pounds ($35
billion) in 2008, the largest annual loss in British corporate
Meanwhile, the British division of HSBC PLC said that it may lay
off as many as 1,200 people, or 2 percent of its British work
force, following a review of operations. The Unite union claimed
that 2,900 staffers would be affected.
Britain's FTSE 100 stock market index fell 0.3 percent to
PARIS - Striking French workers for the U.S. manufacturer 3M
held their boss hostage amid labor talks at a plant south of Paris,
as anger over layoffs and cutbacks mounted. While the situation at
the 3M plant outside Pithiviers was calm, workers marched on the
presidential palace in Paris and tires were set afire by
Continental AG employees whose auto parts factory was being shut
Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, the president of the European Union
slammed President Barack Obama's plans to have the U.S. spend its
way out of recession as "a road to hell," underscoring European
differences with Washington ahead of a crucial summit next week on
fixing the world economy.
France's CAC 40 stock index climbed 0.7 percent to 2,893.45.
BUCHAREST, Romania - Crisis-hit Romania will receive euro20 billion
in loans from a group of lenders led by the International Monetary
Fund. The money will bolster government finances hard hit by the
world financial crisis. The IMF agreed to a two-year bailout loan
of euro12.95 billion ($17.49 billion). Another euro5 billion will come
from the European Union, euro1.5 billion from the World Bank, and the
rest from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Romania is the third EU member to receive an IMF-led bailout loan
after Hungary and Latvia. Eastern Europe has struggled with falling
growth, sagging currencies and political turmoil from the crisis.
BERLIN - German chemical company BASF SE said that it will
reduce production because of weak order levels. The new cuts follow
earlier reductions of more than 25 percent worldwide.
Meanwhile, a key gauge of German business sentiment fell in
March to its lowest level since November 1982, a sign that the
recession in Europe's biggest economy continues unabated. The Ifo
Institute said its business climate index slipped to 82.1 points in
March from 82.6 points in February.
Germany's DAX stock market index closed up 0.9 percent to
TOKYO - Japan's exports fell by nearly half in February from a
year earlier - a record drop - dragged down by plunging auto
shipments to the U.S. and Europe. Exports tumbled 49.4 percent, the
sharpest decline since the Ministry of Finance began compiling
comparable data in 1980 but generally in line with economists'
The Nikkei 225 stock average dipped 0.1 percent to 8,479.99.
Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai's index retreated 2 percent to
2,291.55, ending a seven-day rally of nearly 10 percent. South
Korea's Kospi rose 0.5 percent, Australia's key index gained 0.8
percent and Taiwan's market jumped 2 percent.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Cargo handler DP World said that
business at its ports dropped 8 percent in the first two months of
this year as global trade evaporates because of the global economic
slump. The slowdown shows no signs of easing. The CEO of the
Dubai-based company, one of the world's biggest and most
geographically diverse port operators, said market conditions are
changing on an almost daily basis, making it impossible to predict
how badly business might suffer this year.
OSLO - Norway's central bank lowered its key interest rate by
half a percentage point to 2 percent, citing a deteriorating
outlook for the global economy.
WARSAW, Poland - Poland's central bank cut its key interest rate
by a quarter of a percentage point to 3.75 percent. The National
Bank of Poland's key rate is now at its lowest level since 1990,
when decades of communism gave way to a market economy.
HONG KONG - Citic Pacific Ltd., the Hong Kong arm of a Chinese
government investment firm, said it suffered it first annual loss
in years after making bad currency bets, but maintained its
finances were secure. Its stock plunged 8 percent.
Hong Kong turned in Asia's worst performance as the Hang Seng
sank 2.1 percent to 13,622.11.
MUMBAI, India - Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating
of India's Tata Motors, two days after the splashy launch of the
ultracheap Nano. The move underscores analyst and investor
skepticism that the Nano, which sells for as low as $2,200, will be
able to shore up the finances of Tata Motors.
India's Sensex gained 2.1 percent to 9,667.9.
AMSTERDAM - The Dutch government will spend euro5.5 billion ($7.4
billion) to help the economy as part of a plan in which labor
unions have agreed to ease their wage demands.
WINDHOEK, Namibia - Namibia's government has agreed that Namdeb,
its diamond mining joint venture with De Beers, should halt
production for up to four months because the global economic
downturn has slashed demand, officials said.
BELGRADE, Serbia - Serbia and the International Monetary Fund
are close to agreeing on a euro3 billion bailout loan to help the
Balkan country fight the effects the global financial crisis,