US home construction fell nine per cent in September
WASHINGTON, USA (AP):
Home builders pulled back on construction for a second straight month in September, with a plunge in apartments offsetting gains in single-family homes. Building activity was weak in all parts of the country except the Midwest.
Construction tumbled nine per cent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.05 million units, the Commerce Department reported last Wednesday. It was the slowest pace in 18 months. Construction had fallen 5.6 per cent in August.
Regulators looking to strengthen banks' cyber defences
WASHINGTON, USA (AP):
Federal regulators are looking to set up new standards for big banks' planning and testing for possible cyberattacks. The aim is to bolster the banking industry's defences amid concern over periodic security breaches at US banks.
The move, announced Wednesday by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and a Treasury Department banking agency, is designed to get banks' senior executives and directors to pay closer attention to cybersecurity, agency officials said.
IMF says low oil prices still hurting Mideast
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP):
Oil-producing Mideast countries are coping with low global oil prices though more government reforms are needed, the International Monetary Fund's chief for the Mideast said as the organisation issued a new report last Wednesday showing weak economic growth in the region.
Masood Ahmed also told The Associated Press that Iran's economy beat expectations by growing by 4.5 per cent this year and could keep up that pace if it can modernise its industries and allow in more foreign investment after its nuclear deal with world powers.
Portugal scraps more austerity but vows budget-deficit cut
LISBON, Portugal (AP):
Portugal's centre-left government is rolling back some more austerity measures, even while it pledges to keep cutting its budget deficit as part of an ongoing effort to reduce its huge national debt.
The government said Thursday it will reopen some public services in rural areas that were shut to save money after Portugal came close to bankruptcy in 2011 and needed a €78-billion ($85.5-billion) international bailout. It plans to reopen 20 courthouses and expand the network of rural educational institutions, as well as build 34 new health centres.
World wine production slips amid rough weather; Italy on top
PARIS, France (AP):
Floods, drought, frost and hail cut into world wine production this year across Europe and South America, but the quality of the 2016 vintage shouldn't unduly suffer.
Italy remained the world's top producer for the second straight year, with a volume of 48.8 million hectolitres, according to figures released Thursday by the International Organization of Vine and Wine. Next come France - hit hard by spring floods and summer drought - and Spain.
Overall global production fell five per cent from 2015 levels to 259 million hectolitres, one of the weakest levels of the past 20 years.
Business briefs in the region
Caribbean countries warned to closely monitor national insurance schemes
WASHINGTON, USA (CMC):
Caribbean countries have been warned that they need to build national awareness of the fiscal risk associated with pension schemes and need for reforms.
"At a minimum, the actuarial deficits should be systematically monitored and reported to the public with more frequency and a degree of detail to allow proper evaluation of the fiscal risk," according to a new study released by the International Monetary Fund.
Since their establishment in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, contribution incomes have exceeded benefit payments and administrative expenses for most countries and the systems have accumulated a large fund.
Government defends investment in CUB
ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC):
The Antigua and Barbuda government Tuesday defended its decision to invest millions of dollars in the cash-strapped Caribbean Union Bank (CUB), saying it is "today a strong and healthy institution".
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who is also the finance minister, told legislators that in 2015, the bank recorded a loss of EC$480,000, down from the EC$997,000 the previous year.
Study shows continued deterioration of labour markets in Latin America and Caribbean
SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC):
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said on Wednesday that labour markets in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) continued to suffer from the effects of a regional economic contraction during the first half of 2016.
In a study conducted by ECLAC in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the LAC labour markets registered a significant rise in the unemployment rate and an overall deterioration in their indicators.
The study, titled Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean, analysed the region's labour performance during the first half of this year.
Union warns of escalated industrial action
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):
The powerful Oilfield Workers, Trade Union (OWTU) has warned that Trinidad and Tobago could face a crippling fuel shortage if the state-owned oil company PETROTRIN refuses to deal with a number of management failures.
"We have been trying to tell PETROTRIN's management to take proactive action to ensure that the contractor resolves these issues, but they took a hands-off approach and that meant, for the union, seeking justice for the workers and that is to withhold their labour," OWTU President General Ancel Roget said, warning that industrial action that began on Thursday at several PETROTRIN facilities could spread in the coming days.