Morning business round-up: China's surprise trade gap


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

China posted a surprise trade deficit for the first time since March last year, after exports slowed.

Shipments grew at a weaker-than-expected 2.4% in February from the same month a year ago.

Imports on the other hand increased by 19.4%, resulting in a trade deficit of $7.3bn (£4.5bn), the largest in seven years.

Other economic news in Asia, showed Japan's economy as worse than forecast.

It contracted more quickly than first forecast in the final three months of 2010, hurt by weaker consumption and business investment, according to government figures.

The Cabinet Office said Japan's economy contracted by a revised 1.3%, compared with a preliminary report of 1.1%.

Media caption,
Biz Heads

The oil price - never far from the headlines in recent weeks - was on the rise again. Crude oil prices rose sharply on fears over Libya's actions.

Asian trading hours saw higher prices with Libya attacking oil installations before falling back when the European markets opened.

Brent crude peaked at $116.50 a barrel, near its two-and-a-half year high, before dropping to $115.60 by 0830 GMT. US light, sweet crude was at $104.25.

The indebtedness of Europe's economy - another favourite for the markets - was another preoccupation for investors.

Spanish debt was downgraded by Moody's by one notch, and that, along with the crisis in Libya, kept stock markets in negative territory in morning trading.

Elsewhere there was news of the international rich. The richest man's wealth jumped 38%, according to Forbes magazine's rich list.

Mexico's Carlos Slim topped the table for a second year after his wealth grew by more than a third.

The telecoms magnate's fortune rose by $20.5bn (£12.65bn) to $74bn, beating Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($56bn) into second place.

More than 200 people joined the billionaires list as their numbers rose to a new record of 1,210, Forbes said.

And the list revealed six billionaires connected with Facebook are now on the list, including founder Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker.

Finally, for a listen to some of the wider trends in the world of business and economics, click through to our Business Daily podcast, which is looking at the carbon footprint of China, the world's biggest polluter. It asks: Can China go green?