Business

Morning Business Round-up: Market tension

What made the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

Once again, stock markets were hit by worries over tensions in North Africa and the Middle East and whether they would spread to more oil-producing nations.

The price of gold reached a fresh high, as investors flock to the metal, which is traditionally seen as a haven in times of uncertainty.

Oil prices rose again, with Brent crude heading towards the $116 a barrel mark, and Middle East stock markets fell. Saudi Arabia's share market, the region's largest, fell 2.6% on Wednesday, following a 6.8% slide on Tuesday.

Worries that the rising oil price could choke any global economic recovery hit other major share markets. In Europe all the main bourses were trading lower, while earlier in Japan the Nikkei index ended the day down 2.4%.

The recent increase in oil prices is set to halve airlines' profits this year, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Iata is predicting that the airline industry will see net profits of $8.6bn (£5.3bn) in 2011, down from $16bn in 2010 and lower than its previous forecast of $9.1bn.

Earlier on Wednesday there had been better news from Australia, which said that its economic growth had picked up pace in the fourth quarter of 2010, despite some of the worst flooding in the country's history.

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Gross domestic product rose by 0.7% in the October to December period, up from 0.1% growth in the previous quarter.

In New Zealand the country's currency fell on speculation that the central bank will cut interest rates to help the economy recover from the recent earthquake.

In the US, a former Goldman Sachs board member has been charged with insider trading.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission said Rajat Gupta had leaked details about Warren Buffett's $5bn (£3bn) investment in Goldman in 2008 to Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam.

Mr Gupta's lawyer has called the allegations "totally baseless". A spokesman for Goldman declined to comment, as did Jim McCarthy, spokesman for Mr Rajaratnam.

The Doha round of trade talks will have no relevance to the modern world unless big emerging economies open up their markets, US officials have warned.

Nations such as China, India and Brazil needed to accept "their expanded roles in the global economy", said the office of the US Trade Representative.

Standard Chartered, which has an Asian-focused business despite being London-based, has reported a 19% rise in annual profits to $6.1bn and said Asian trading had got off to a strong start in 2011.

UK broadcaster ITV reported a rise in full-year profits to £286m and said it intended to restore its dividend in 2011 after advertising revenues recovered.

Our reporter at the Geneva motor show, Jorn Madslien, looks at an attempt to move electric motoring into the luxury sector.

The Fisker Karma, which is due to go into production later this month, is an electric car that has been kitted out with a four-cylinder, petrol-powered, range-extender engine.

The Californian company initially hopes to sell 15,000 cars per year.

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