Accessibility links

Asia Business: The Week Ahead - 2003-09-15

Australia is reporting its lowest unemployment numbers in more than a decade - raising more questions about a possible rise in interest rates. And a South Korean electronics company hopes to ring up mobile phone sales in the Islamic world.

Australia's Bureau of Statistics says the country's unemployment rate for August was at its lowest level since December of 1989. The government says more than 80,000 jobs were created, and the jobless rate fell to 5.8 percent.

That defies many economists' prediction that unemployment would remain steady at July's rate of 6.2 percent. Treasurer Peter Costello says it is a sign of Australia's economic strength despite adversity. "What makes this quite remarkable is it's come at a time when the international environment is so weak and when we've had an American recession, we've had the worst drought in 100 years," he says.

Analysts say the figures may pressure Australia's Reserve Bank to end a freeze on interest rates and move them higher, to prevent the economy from overheating.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed has submitted his final budget for Malaysia, after leading the country for 22 years. Dr. Mahathir says the budget includes assistance for small and medium-sized businesses, to boost the amount of locally produced components in Malaysia's exports.

The budget does not include any tax cuts, because Malaysia is trying to control a budget deficit expected to be about five percent of gross domestic product for 2003. The budget does include higher taxes for tobacco and alcohol.

Prime Minister Mahathir is scheduled to retire later this year, turning over the government to Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The world's largest contract chipmaker says its monthly revenue hit a record high in August. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, or TSMC, says August revenue surged 35 percent to $537 million.

TSMC executives say the increase is due to strong shipments. They are raising their third quarter forecast for shipments to increase by nine, rather then five, percent. Analysts say that could be a positive sign for world technology markets. TSMC computer chips are used in a wide range of high-tech goods, from video game consoles to mobile phones.

South Korea's LG Electronics is reaching out to the world's Muslims with a new mobile phone handset. It includes an electronic compass, which will help Muslims locate the direction of Mecca.

The Islamic faith requires Muslims to pray while facing the holy city five times each day. LG hopes to market the phone not only in the Middle East, but also in the predominantly Muslim Asian nations of Indonesia and Malaysia.