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Updated: Oct 2 2012, 09:02am hrs
ArcelorMittal to close two French furnaces

Steelmaker ArcelorMittal told unions on Monday it will permanently close two mothballed furnaces in northeastern France, enraging workers who blocked off access to the entire steel plant and management offices at the site. The decision, confirmed in a company statement, is a blow to the Socialist government, which last week ordered ArcelorMittal to restart or sell the furnaces, which employ 600 of 2,700 workers at a site that is now symbolic of Frances industrial decline. ArcelorMittal said in the statement the permanent closure of the furnaces, which were shut off in July and October 2011 due to a lack of demand, would affect some 629 jobs. The company said it would seek to move workers to new jobs. While ArcelorMittal CEO Lakshmi Mittal has given his consent to finding a buyer the issue lies with flagging demand, largely from the stagnant auto sector, which is not likely to revive any time soon.

Eurozone unemployment stuck at record 11.4%

Unemployment across the 17 countries that use the euro remained at its record high rate of 11.4% in August, official data showed Monday, renewing concerns that efforts to slash debts have sacrificed jobs. While European leaders have managed to calm financial markets in recent months with promises to cut spending and build a tighter union, they have been unable to halt the rising tide of joblessness. In August, 34,000 more people lost their jobs in the eurozone, according to data released Monday by the European statistics agency, Eurostat. The unemployment rate the highest since the euro was created in 1999 is the same as Julys, which was revised up from 11.3 Monday.

Survey shows weaker confidence in Japan

Major Japanese manufacturers are increasingly gloomy due to weakening growth at home and overseas, a quarterly survey by Japans central bank showed Monday. The Bank of Japans tankan index for the three months that ended in September was minus 3, a worsening from the previous quarters minus 1. Sinking exports due to feeble demand in crisis-stricken Europe and anti-Japanese protests in China have reinforced the gloom among leading companies. The index did not retreat as far as the March reading, however, which was at minus 4. The central bank recently extended its monetary easing, moving to spur lending and forecasting that growth would remain flat in coming weeks.

Greeces Alpha in talks with Credit Agricole

Greeces Alpha Bank said Monday it is in talks with Frances Credit Agricole to buy its Greek unit Emporiki Bank. Alpha said it is negotiating the purchase of the entire share capital of Emporiki, and that the transaction is expected to be completed by Dec. 31. Credit Agricole, Frances third largest bank, is seeking to sell its Greek unit as concern continues over Greeces financial crisis, which has battered the countrys banks and raised questions about its continued membership of the eurozone. Credit Agricole has already made a (euro) 2.3 billion ($2.9 billion) capital injection into Emporiki, and would add another (euro) 550 million before the transaction was complete to bring the total to (euro) 2.85 billion. Emporikis nominal sale price would be (euro) 1, the French bank said.

Airlines profit outlook recovering, says IATA

The outlook for the airline industry is improving, with profits expected to reach $4.1 billion this year and $7.5 billion in 2013, the International Air Transport Association said Monday. The industry group raised its forecast for 2012 from $3 billion, saying passenger numbers so far this year were robust. Airlines are keeping their heads above water better than we expected, IATA chief executive Tony Tyler said. But he noted that profits this year will still be less than half the $8.4 billion that the industry earned in 2011. Tyler blamed Europes economic crisis, oil prices averaging $110 a barrel, weak cargo demand and low business confidence for the slowdown.