Morning Business Round-up: Oil price volatility on Saudi fears

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

Unrest in Libya, and fears the trouble in the region could spread to other major oil producers, pressed oil prices upwards. The price of Brent crude and US light, sweet crude were both up on fears of possible unrest in leading producer Saudi Arabia with Brent crude hitting $114.50 a barrel, before prices started receding in mid-morning.

It came as 119 academics, activists and businessmen wrote an open letter to the king of Saudi Arabia, demanding reform, and complaining about the prevalence of corruption and nepotism in the country.

Markets in Paris, Frankfurt and London were only slightly behind during morning trading.

India's government has unveiled its annual budget saying that the economy is expected to grow at 9% in 2012. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the growth rate for the current financial year was projected at 8.5%.

Media caption,

Biz Heads

The BSE Sensex in Mumbai welcomed the news, although markets in Karachi and Lahore were down.

In Japan, industrial output was up for the third month in a row in January, underlining optimism that the economy is recovering. Factory output was up 2.4% from the previous month, compared with a 3.3% gain in December, the Trade Ministry said.

HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, has reported pre-tax profits of $19bn (£11.8bn) for 2010, more than double the $7.1bn figure for 2009. HSBC said it has been profitable in every customer group and region for first time since 2006.

But it was one of the top fallers in London trade as its profits had come in below expectations.

Financial complaints to the UK ombudsman rose by 15% in the second half of 2010 compared with the first half of the year. Lloyds Banking Group topped the complaints list, the ombudsman said, although it is the UK's largest bank. Its shares were down by 1% in morning trade in London.

Discounter Groupon has started operations in China, taking its electronic-commerce platform to the world's largest internet market. The site will be called in China and is a partnership between Groupon and Chinese internet giant Tencent.

On the UK High Street, retailer Primark saw strong trade in the first quarter of the financial year, despite adverse weather during the Christmas period.

However, its owner Associated British Foods saw its shares fall after saying Primark had seen "a noticeable slowing down of UK consumer demand".

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