LONDON – The British statistics office revised its figure for economic output in the third quarter of 2008 to a 0.7 percent decline from the earlier estimates of 0.6 percent. The estimate of a 1.5 percent drop in the fourth quarter remained unchanged, its biggest drop since 1980, the Office for National Statistics said. Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 38.04 points, or 1 percent, at 3,854.48, while France’s CAC-40 rose 23.51 points, or 0.9 percent, at 2,731.56. Germany’s DAX was suffering, down 86.73 points, or 2.2 percent, at 3,809.02 as yet another East European country saw its sovereign debt rating downgraded.
MOSCOW – Russia’s budget revenues are forecast to drop 30 percent this year, leaving the country with a budget deficit of 8 percent of gross domestic output – the first budget deficit in several years, the Russian finance minister said. Expenditures meanwhile are expected to rise by 500 billion rubles ($14 billion) to 9.5 trillion ($265 billion), minister Alexei Kudrin said, according to Russian news agencies.
HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s economy shrank 2.5 percent in the last quarter and is set for a downward spiral in 2009, likely posting its first full-year contraction since the Asian financial crisis a decade ago, the government said. The Chinese territory’s economy, battered by the worst global economic slowdown in decades, is expected to face more pain as job losses mount, exports slump and property prices tumble, Financial Secretary John Tsang said in an annual budget address.
BEIJING – China promised tax cuts to exporters of nonferrous metals and help to logistics companies to modernize technology in its latest stimulus measures for industries that have been hit by the country’s economic slump. Beijing has promised stimulus plans for 10 industries on top of its 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) economic stimulus package unveiled in November. Meanwhile, Chinese shares were mixed after China Merchants Bank Ltd. announced that a locked-up block of its shares becomes tradable next week, fueling hopes regulators are trying to solve problems associated with such issues. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index overcame early losses to rise 5.62 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 2206.57. The Shenzhen Composite Index for China’s smaller second exchange fell 0.4 percent to 734.88.
BERLIN – Germany’s sharp fourth-quarter economic contraction was powered by a 7.3 percent slump in exports, which had long been the mainstay of the country’s growth, government data showed. The Federal Statistical Office confirmed its initial Feb. 13 estimate that the recession in Europe’s biggest economy deepened dramatically in the October-December period, with gross domestic product shrinking 2.1 percent from the previous quarter. It said exports declined 7.3 percent in the quarter, while imports were down 3.6 percent.
TOKYO – Japanese shares rose for the first time in a week, buoyed by a weaker yen, an overnight recovery on Wall Street and speculation that the government may use public funds to buy stocks. The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average gained 192.66 points, or 2.7 percent, to 7,461.22. The broader Topix index, which had fallen to 25-year lows earlier this week, advanced 2.1 percent at 745.62.