Hong Kong continues to top a list of the world's freest economies and the Philippines posted a record balance of payments surplus in 2007. Claudia Blume at VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong has more on these and other business stories from the region.

Hong Kong has been ranked the world's freest economy for the 14th year in a row. Singapore came in second on a list compiled annually by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization in the United States. Two other countries from the Asia-Pacific region - Australia and New Zealand - were also among the top 10 countries with the freest economies.

Terry Miller, the director of the Heritage Foundation, says Hong Kong scored slightly lower this year than the year before - because of higher inflation.

"We use a three-year rolling average of inflation. That rate went up, so the score went down," said Miller. "There has also been a slight increase in government revenue as percentage of economic activity and that also caused a small decline in the score of Hong Kong. But I don't think we can say what next year's index will bring but I am sure that Hong Kong will continue to be a very strong performer indeed."

The Heritage Foundation survey considers such factors as tax rates and the ease of starting a business in its study.

The Philippines posted a balance of payments surplus of almost $8.6 billion in 2007, far exceeding the central bank's expectations. The balance of payments measures a country's transactions with other countries.

The surplus was mainly due to remittances from overseas workers, as well as foreign investment in the country. Filipinos working overseas sent home more than $13 billion in the first 11 months of last year, 14 percent more than in the same period a year earlier.

New Zealand's inflation accelerated more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2007. The consumer price index rose 1.2 percent in the three months until December, driven by higher gas and food prices.

China Mobile has ended talks with Apple over introducing the U.S. company's iPhones in China. Apple pledged to introduce its popular iPhone - a cell phone that also plays music and allows Internet access - in Asia this year. The company had hoped to gain access to China Mobile's 350 million subscribers. The two companies did not comment about why they ended negotiations.