Quick view: US economy grew at 3.2% in fourth quarter

Updated: Jan 31 2014, 07:54am hrs
The US economy grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the October-December quarter on the strength of the strongest consumer spending in three years, an encouraging sign for 2014. The fourth-quarter increase followed a 4.1% growth rate in the July-September quarter, when the economy was boosted by a buildup in business stockpiles. The commerce department said that for 2013 as a whole, the economy grew a tepid 1.9%, below the 2.8% increase in 2012. Growth was held back last year by higher federal taxes and government spending cuts.

Ukraine prez goes on sick leave in midst of crisis

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich has gone on sick leave with a respiratory ailment, leaving a political vacuum in a country destabilised by anti-government protests. Yanukovichs prime minister Mykola Azarov resigned on Tuesday after a sharp escalation of two months of street unrest prompted by Yanukovich's rejection of a European Union deal in favour of closer ties with Russia. The president, under pressure from Moscow not to tilt policy back towards the West, has yet to appoint a successor. Serhiy Arbuzov, who was Azarovs first deputy, has stepped in as interim prime minister.

Shell to stop drilling in Alaska in 2014

Shell, Europes largest oil company, will stop drilling for oil in Alaska this year as it cuts back on investments and tries to reverse a steep drop in earnings. Incoming CEO Ben van Beurden said Royal Dutch Shell will cut capital spending by around $10 billion this year and sell assets to become more efficient. He said Shell wont drill for oil off Alaskas coast in 2014 following a court ruling that put significant obstacles in the way of exploiting resources in the Arctic.

Doctors to start waking up Schumacher

Doctors treating seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher will begin lowering his sedation level in order to start the process to wake him up, his agent said on Thursday. Schumacher has been in an artificial coma in a hospital in the eastern French city of Grenoble for more than four weeks following an accident in late December when he slammed his head on a rock while skiing off-piste in the resort of Meribel. Michaels sedation is being reduced in order to allow the start of the waking-up process, which may take (a) long time, his agent, Sabine Kehm, said in a statement.

Greek PM promises hefty budget surplus of 1 bn

Greece will post a budget surplus of at least 1 billion euros in 2013 and return the bulk of that to cash-strapped Greeks, prime minister Antonis Samaras said on Thursday, seeking to wrest momentum back from an emboldened leftist opposition. Samaras, whose two-party coalition has just a three-seat majority in parliament, is under growing pressure as polls show the leftist Syriza party steadily gaining ground against the ruling parties ahead of local and EU elections in May.

British outsourcer Serco warns on 2014 profits

British outsourcing group Serco said 2014 profit could be as much as 20% below market forecasts due to the cost of improving its business after contract failures with its biggest customer, the UK government. Serco is overhauling its business, including restructuring its UK unit and strengthening its board to appease the government following some high profile contract blunders last year. Analysts had on average expected a 2014 adjusted pretax profit of 277 million pounds, but Serco said on Thursday it could be 10-20% lower.