Japan logged a record annual trade deficit in 2012 as exports extended a slide in December, signalling that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to weaken the yen have been slow to gain traction. A Reuters monthly poll showed Japanese manufacturing sentiment is improving but the 2012 trade gap of 6.93 trillion yen ($78.27 billion) and a seventh consecutive monthly drop in exports show that has yet to translate into hard economic data. The second consecutive annual trade deficit recorded by a nation that for decades had racked up hefty surpluses, helping to finance its ballooning debt, underlines the need for Abe's government to strike a balance between economic growth and fiscal reform.
Hyundai quarterly profit dented by wons rise
South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. reported its lowest quarterly profit in nearly two years on Thursday due to lacklustre car sales at home and a surge in the local currency that made it less competitive with Japanese automakers. South Korea's largest automaker earned 1.89 trillion won ($1.77 billion) in the October-December quarter, down 5.5% over a year earlier. The result was below the median analyst forecast of 2.05 trillion won, according to FactSet. It was also the automaker's smallest profit since the first quarter of 2011.
Cameron warns Europe against shoehorning
Prime Minister David Cameron warned European leaders on Thursday that any attempt to shoehorn countries into ever deeper political union was a mistake that Britain would not be a part of. Countries in Europe have their histories, their traditions, their institutions, want their own sovereignty, their ability to make their own choices, and to try and shoehorn countries into a centralised political union would be a great mistake for Europe, and Britain wouldn't be part of it, he told CEOs and investors in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Fitch warns UK banks could need more capital
British banks could be underestimating the riskiness of their property loans and may need more capital to correct this, ratings agency Fitch said on Thursday. Fitch's comment chimes with a Bank of England report in November that said the UK's four biggest banks HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds could be over-stating their capital levels by between 5 billion and 35 billion pounds because of the way they measure risk. The UK's Financial Services Authority is reviewing how banks weight the riskiness of their loan books and lenders will be told by March if they need to beef up their capital reserves to protect against loans going sour.