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East Asia's Financial Integration Progressing But Still Low


A top banker says Asian countries need to develop more extensive bond markets to better allow them to invest their vast piles of savings in building the region's economy. And two oil companies are at loggerheads over how they should operate a lucrative oil field in Indonesia.

The Asian Development Bank says efficient bond markets would allow governments to better invest their countries' savings to stimulate growth in the region.

Masahiro Kawai, head of the ADB's office of regional economic integration, says that although Asian consumers and governments have very high savings rates, it often is used to buy assets in other parts of the world, such as the United States. He says that contributes to global trade and fiscal imbalances.

"Asia is an expanding region in terms of economic activity, but the relative size of its bond market in the global scene is still small," he said. "For the global market, the size of the bond market is roughly speaking $44 trillion. The Asian share is only three percent."

Mr. Kawai says having more bond markets in the region would let Asian governments and consumers invest their savings closer to home and stimulate domestic demand.

The Indonesian government threatened to take over Cepu oil field off East Java if state oil company Pertamina and U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil do not resolve a dispute over who will operate it by the end of this year.

Pertamina wants the two companies to alternate responsibility for the operation of the field, while Exxon Mobil insists on being the sole operator.

The two oil companies and the Indonesian government signed a deal in September to develop the oil field for 30 years. Cepu is expected to produce 180,000 barrels a day, which would lift Indonesia's oil production by 20 percent.

Music recording companies in Hong Kong and Singapore have begun a legal battle against illegal music file sharing on the Internet.

The crackdown is part of a global campaign against on-line piracy.

In Singapore, the recording industry filed 33 criminal complaints of file sharing. In Hong Kong, companies started legal proceedings against 22 people who allegedly uploaded copyrighted music onto the Internet.

Hong Kong's record industry association says illegal file sharing caused music sales to drop 25 percent in the past five years.

Singapore raised its full-year economic growth forecast to five percent, from an earlier estimate of no more than 4.5 percent. The government based its forecast on a higher-than-expected third-quarter growth caused by a surge in biomedical exports.

Singapore's economy grew seven percent in the third quarter of this year, compared with a year earlier.