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Plans to Sell Indebted South Korean Semiconductor Firm Put on Hold

In South Korea, plans to sell a deeply indebted semiconductor company have been put on hold, and the job market in Australia is looking up.

While many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are struggling with high unemployment, Australia's strong economy is generating new full-time jobs. In May, Australian companies created more than 75,000 positions. However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics says the improvement was partially offset by a loss of 30,000 part-time jobs.

Gerard Minack, a market strategist for investment bank ABN AMRO in Sydney, says "the trend is improving and annual employment growth is now running a one-point-six percent above year ago levels. We are starting to see declines in the unemployment rate. So the labor market is improving although the strength in the numbers that we saw in May does exaggerate just how good the labor market is."

The unemployment rate remained steady in May at 6.3, down from 7 percent in January. The government also says that the economy grew by 4.2 percent last year, one of the best rates among industrialized nations.

Given the healthy outlook, the Australian central bank raised its benchmark interest rate Wednesday by a quarter of a percentage point to 4.75 percent, the second increase in two months.

In Malaysia, the manufacturing sector is producing more goods, which is vital to reviving the country's slumping economy. New government data show that in April, the industrial production index grew three-point-eight percent from a year earlier. Economists say that reflects an increased demand for electronics and electrical product exports.

South Korea's bankrupt Hynix Semiconductor is off the auction block for now. The government has decided to postpone the sale of the ailing chipmaker until the end of the year.

A deal to sell part of the company to Micron Technology of the United States collapsed in April, after the company's board vetoed it.

Now, analysts say, politicians are cautious about pushing for a sell-off to a foreign owner until the presidential election in December is completed. Such sales are often politically controversial in South Korea.