The credit ratings agency Standard and Poors says average profit for China's top one hundred companies soared almost 30 percent in 2003. This compares with 14 percent growth in 2002. The growth was largely a result of higher prices of crude oil and other commodities.

John Bailey, the director of Standard and Poors' corporate and government ratings department, says some state-owned companies have benefited most from higher commodity prices because of their protected markets for such products as steel, aluminum and petrochemicals.

However, Mr. Bailey said not all companies are profiting from the rise in commodities. Some manufacturers have been hit hard because they need to buy commodities to make goods. "We are seeing a divergence of credit risk, where big companies are getting bigger and better and some smaller companies are finding it hard to handle competition and raw material prices," he said.

Property consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle has named Singapore the world's best-managed city.

Barcelona, Dubai and New York were right behind Singapore in a survey of major capitals. Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong were also in the top 10.

Yu Lai Boon, head of Jones Lang LaSalle's Singapore operation, explains why Singapore came in first. "There is a good alignment between the political decision-making body as well as the city's economy. Singapore also has a very good planning system and strong control over land use allocation and development," he said.

General Motors, the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, and Chinese automotive firm, Shanghai Automotive, have agreed to cooperate in developing and commercializing fuel-cell vehicles.

Fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, and in the process, generate electricity.

The drive to develop vehicles that run on alternatives to gasoline and diesel comes as concern grows over higher oil prices and environmental damage. Shanghai's leaders have promised to support the development of such vehicles.