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Asia Business: The Week Ahead - 2004-04-05


A rise in fuel prices may be around the corner for Australia and Hong Kong's shadowy stock tipsters may soon be forced into the light.

Oil industry leaders in Australia are warning of a possible oil shortage within the next ten years. They say Australia's ratio of reserves to production has declined sharply and recommend the government get more aggressive about oil exploration because of the lag time between exploration and production.

Australia's Petroleum Agents and Distributors Association says prices at gas pumps could go up as soon as next week. Garth Symington, General Manager of the group, says prices at the pump will follow a spike in crude oil prices. "There is a two-week lag on the world crude prices, and we did have very high crude prices just a week ago," he says. "In fact, 15-year high prices."

Oil industry analysts say a decision to cut production by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, will contribute to a price hike.

South Korea's commuters are traveling faster as the country's first high-speed "bullet train" goes into service. The French-designed train can carry more than 900 people and reach speeds of 300 kilometers an hour. It can go from Seoul to Pusan, South Korea's second largest city, 90 minutes faster than regular trains.

South Korean officials say besides clearing up traffic jams, the rail route will help spread economic growth more evenly outside of Seoul.

Hong Kong authorities are trying to clamp down on stock analysts who write about shares under false names. Many Chinese language newspapers feature stock gossip columns by writers such as "Master Yip," "Tiger," and "Know it All."

They suspect some of the writers may be touting stocks they have already bought in an effort to bid up the price. Hong Kong authorities are proposing new guidelines requiring newspaper tipsters to identify themselves by name.

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