Morning business round-up: US Fed cuts growth forecast

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

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has reported a big increase in first quarter profits on the back of higher world oil prices.

Panasonic plans to cut 17,000 jobs globally over the next two years. Analysts say cutbacks are needed to ensure the company will be able to compete successfully against South Korean and Chinese rivals.

Meanwhile, Japanese car manufacturer Honda has revealed its quarterly profits sank 38% as production was hit by last month's earthquake and tsunami. The firm also blamed the strong yen for a fall in sales over the past three months.

And new figures show Japan's industrial output fell by record levels in March as disruptions in the supply chain continued to hit production. Factory output fell by 15.3%, the biggest ever decline in production in the country.

However, the International Monetary Fund has warned that Asia's rapid growth could see some economies overheating. The IMF said it expects the region to grow by close to 7% in the next two years.

Spanish banking group Santander has said the upturn has begun in Europe. Its comments came despite the bank's net income falling 4.8% to 2.1bn euros ($3.1bn; £1.9bn) in the first three months of this year.

Media caption,

Biz Heads

And finally, consumer products giant Unilever has reported rising first quarter sales, helped by strong trading in emerging markets such as China. But the firm added that commodity prices and raw materials would increase in the first half of the year, hitting operating margins.

To hear about some of the wider trends in the world of business, click through to our Business Daily podcast which today looks at how long near-zero interest rates can be maintained in the US and the UK.

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