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South Korean Economic Growth Falls Below Expectation

South Korea's central bank says the economy expanded 4.6 percent in 2004, short of the government's five percent target for the year. The bank says domestic consumption was weak, even though exports were robust.

This year, the bank forecasts the economy will grow at least four percent, if domestic demand and investment recover. Officials say an upturn in private consumption over the past few months suggests the economy could perform better than expected.

In Hong Kong, the government says more people are getting jobs. The unemployment rate in the three months ending in January has fallen to its lowest in more than three years, to six-point-one percent.

Financial Secretary Henry Tang says the figures reflect improvements in the deflation-hit economy. "In the last year, the Hong Kong economy has created about 100,000 new jobs and it is very encouraging. We remain cautiously optimistic about the future," he said.

The Central Bank of Pakistan says the economy is expected to grow 7.8 percent in the current fiscal year. It says a bumper cotton harvest and higher foreign investments are catapulting economic growth to a nine-year high.

Also in Pakistan, hundreds of investors rioted at the Karachi Stock Exchange because share prices have fallen about 20 percent since March 16. The Karachi Stock Exchange had surged 70 percent earlier this year, prompting authorities to start an investigation on possible anomalies.

In Vietnam, Taiwan's Taya Electric Wire and Cable will become the first foreign business to list on the country's two stock exchanges. The company, which has factories in Vietnam, will start selling shares worth about two million dollars in April on the stock exchanges in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.