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Asia's Growth to Slow in 2007, Ratings Agency Predicts


An international ratings agency forecasts slower growth for Asia in 2007, and Singapore has been named the world's most business-friendly economy.

The international ratings agency Standard and Poor's says a repeat of the 1997 Asian financial crisis is unlikely. S&P says banking systems in the region are now in a better position to deal with problems like the collapse of currencies and the debt crisis that many Asian countries suffered a decade ago.

But the agency expects Asia's growth to slow slightly in 2007. S&P credit analyst Ping Chew says this is due to a number of risk factors.

"The few key risks we do see in the near future stem from firstly: a U.S.-slowdown," said Chew. "Secondly, elevated interest-rates environment and thirdly, oil shock and its impact on prices."

A World Bank report says Singapore is the most business-friendly nation in the world. New Zealand, which topped the list last year, came second. Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand are also among the top 30 countries where it is easiest to do business. The World Bank report calls China the region's top reformer over the past year because it cut red tape and simplified business procedures.

U.S. gambling mogul Stephen Wynn opened a $1.2 billion casino resort in Macau. The 600-room Wynn Macau is the second U.S.-owned casino in the southern Chinese territory. Its rival the Las Vegas Sands opened in 2004 - three years after the former Portuguese colony opened the gambling market to foreign investors. Macau seeks to become the world's top gambling destination.

Hong Kong Disneyland executives say the theme park did not reach its target of attracting 5.6 million visitors in its first year.

The park is a joint venture between the Walt Disney Company in the United States and the Hong Kong government.

Japan increased its capital investment spending in the second quarter at the fastest pace in almost five years, as the economy there continues to expand. Corporate investments from April to June jumped almost 17 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

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