Manufacturing activity in China picked up speed in March after expanding at its slowest pace in four months in February, an initial HSBC survey has shown. The preliminary reading of HSBC's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) rose to 51.7, from 50.4 in February, which was the lowest reading since October. Manufacturers reported a bigger backlog of work and a faster rate of increase in purchases, and stocks of finished goods expanded. Employment however increased at a slower rate than in February. Inflationary pressures eased. "March Flash Manufacturing PMI rebounded to 51.7 on the back of stronger new orders and production growth," Qu Hongbin, Chief Economist, Greater China, and Co-Head of Asian Economic Research at HSBC, said in a statement on Thursday. "This implies that the Chinese economy is still on track for gradual growth recovery. "Inflation remains well behaved, leaving room for Beijing to keep policy relatively accommodative in a bid to sustain growth recovery," he added. China's economy expanded 7.8 percent in 2012, its slowest pace for 13 years. Inflation hit a 10-month high of 3.2 percent in February, up from January's 2.0 percent. The Flash index is published about one week before the final PMI data. HSBC's China Manufacturing PMI is due for release on 1 April. Image: © Getty Copyright is owned by Asia Outlook and/or Outlook Publishing. All rights reserved.
David Beckham has arrived in Beijing to begin his new role as a special ambassador for Chinese football, according to reports. During his four-day visit, he will attend league matches in China and help promote the game to children. Chinese football is plagued by corruption and match-fixing. Television viewing figures for foreign leagues far outnumber those for the tarnished domestic league, while the national side failed to qualify for next year's World Cup. Last month, Beckham, 37, said he was "excited by the prospect of promoting the world's greatest game to Chinese sports fans". The former England captain will combine the role with playing for his club Paris Saint Germain. In February, China's football association banned 33 players and officials for life after a three-year probe into match-fixing. Image: © Getty Copyright is owned by Asia Outlook and/or Outlook Publishing. All rights reserved.
China's quality watchdog the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China has said in a statement on its website that carmaker Volkswagen AG will recall 384,181 vehicles in the country to fix a long-standing gearbox problem.
It is often said that you either love it or hate it but New Zealanders clearly have a passion for Marmite - the spread they affectionately call 'black gold'. Sanitarium, the company which produces the savoury spread, suffered significant damage to its only marmite factory during the Christchurch earthquake in 2011. Stocks diminished and the media dubbed the shortage 'marmageddon' – a moniker which Sanitarium has since embraced, adding to their website "You've rationed, you've scraped, you've survived marmaggedon - and now the wait is over!" With production back in full swing, and jars due to reach shelves today, even sports stars have been willing to lend a hand. Legendary All Black Buck Shelford gave lucky Christchurch families a much needed morale boost when he visited their homes earlier this month with specially signed jars. The symbolism was not lost on Sanitarium General Manager Peirre van Heerden, who commented that, "It's fitting that the first jars of Marmite go to Christchurch families directly impacted by the earthquakes. These jars are a symbol of Christchurch's rebuilding and resilience." The Marmite factory was scheduled to re-open by middle of last year but faced unexpected delays and supermarkets found themselves having to ration customers to two jars per person. Van deerden added, "We have worked hard to make sure that every Kiwi can have a tub of Marmite back in their pantries before Easter." Image: marmite.co.nz Copyright is owned by Asia Outlook and/or Outlook Publishing. All rights reserved.
Eurozone finance ministers have asked Cyprus to rethink plans for a one-off tax of 6.75 percent on savings of up to 100,000 euros, which are linked to the country getting a controversial 10 billion euro bailout. Banks in Cyprus closed as people tried to withdraw funds from cash machines and they are likely to remain so until Thursday, as efforts to revise an international bailout package continue. A parliamentary vote on the package is expected. As a condition for Cyprus's much-needed bailout, the EU and IMF on Saturday imposed a levy on all deposits in the island's banks. Deposits of more than 100,000 euros will be hit with a 9.9 percent charge and 6.75 percent for anything below that threshold. Tokyo stocks fell 2.71 percent at the close Monday after the yen soared on the news. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 340.32 points at 12,220.63, while the Topix index of all first-section issues shed 23.31 points. They did recover on Tuesday. Image: © Getty Copyright is owned by Asia Outlook and/or Outlook Publishing. All rights reserved.
Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant has been hit by a power failure, affecting its cooling systems for spent fuel ponds. A statement from operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said the cause of the power failure, which began at 18:57 on Monday, was still being assessed. But it said there is no immediate danger. The outage had hit ponds at reactors 1, 3 and 4, it said, but cooling to the reactors themselves was not affected. It would take four days for the hottest pool to hit safety limits, Tepco said. "We are trying to restore power by then," spokesman Kenichi Tanabe said. In an announcement Tepco said, "Upon investigation, it was found that part of the power supply facilities at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have stopped due to the incident and the following facilities are currently being suspended." According to the AP new agency, Tepco said it was trying to repair a broken switchboard that could have caused the problem. "In the worst case scenario, we have a system in place to put water into the pools, so we have a double strategy: we have time to find a solution before the temperature gets out of hand and then also the ability to inject water into the pools if needed," Tepco official Masayuki Ono said. Image: © Tepco Copyright is owned by Asia Outlook and/or Outlook Publishing. All rights reserved.
India's reserve bank has lowered its benchmark repo rate, the rate at which it lends to commercial banks, by 25 basis points in a bid to jumpstart the country's economy. The cash reserve ratio was unchanged. "Growth has decelerated significantly, even as inflation remains at a level (that) is not conducive for sustained economic growth," the Reserve Bank of India said in a statement. The rate-cut decision was widely expected by economists who have been calling for lower borrowing costs to help the economy, which grew at just 4.5 percent in the quarter to December, and came as India's minority government lost a coalition partner. The DMK party's 18 MPs said they would not support the Congress party-led government following their failure to condemn alleged atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils. Five MPs who are ministers in the government announced they will also resign from the cabinet. A senior minister said the government was "stable" and would remain in power. Image: © Getty Copyright is owned by Asia Outlook and/or Outlook Publishing. All rights reserved.
European plane maker Airbus has announced it has received a record order from Indonesia's Lion Air for 234 medium-haul A320 jets.
Tokyo stocks fell 2.71 percent at the close Monday after the yen soared on news that Cyprus plans to tax bank depositors as part of a controversial bailout deal. The EU and IMF want all bank customers in Cyprus to pay a levy in return for a bailout worth 10 billion euros. It has caused widespread panic, with fears mounting that the situation could trigger an escalation of the eurozone debt crisis and a selloff in the euro. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 340.32 points at 12,220.63, while the Topix index of all first-section issues shed 23.31 points. As a condition for Cyprus's much-needed bailout, the EU and IMF on Saturday imposed a levy on all deposits in the island's banks. Deposits of more than 100,000 euros will be hit with a 9.9 percent charge and 6.75 percent for anything below that threshold. The plan is yet to be finalised but the news of the deal caused a rush to the cash machines in Cyprus as people tried to withdraw money. Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Australia's ASX 200 meanwhile dipped two percent. Image: © Getty Copyright is owned by Asia Outlook and/or Outlook Publishing. All rights reserved.
Danish toy maker Lego has announced plans to build its own factory in China to serve the rapidly growing Asian market. The company said construction of the 120,000sqm plant in Jiaxing would begin next year and it would create 2000 Chinese jobs. The new plant will be around 100km from Shanghai where the Lego is planning to locate a regional distribution centre for Asia. It will be fully operational by 2017. "It is our strategy to have production close to our core markets in order to secure short lead-time and world class service to our customers and consumers, and it has proven a successful strategy. Asia – including China – is a future core market for the Lego Group and therefore I am excited to share our plans for the new factory. Having full control of the production process is essential to deliver products of a consistent high quality and safety and in harmony with our values," said Bali Padda, COO. "In addition by placing a manufacturing site in the region we reduce our environmental impact as we will reduce the need for transporting products from Europe to be sold in Asia." In 2009 Lego opened its first non-European factory in Monterrey, Mexico. Until now, products sold in Asia have been shipped from Europe. Lego said sales in Asia had grown by more than 50 percent annually in recent years. "Based on our current expectations for growth in Asia, the factory should be able to supply approximately 70-80 percent of all the Lego products sold in…