BRIEFS

CHINA

CHINA

Ore stocks low

Iron ore inventories in China have dropped to their lowest in two years as higher demand pushed up prices. Stockpiles held at China's big ports dropped 3.3 per cent to 71.32 million tonnes as of December 21, the lowest since September 10, 2010, according to weekly data from researcher Beijing Antaike Information Development Co. The inventories have dropped for eight straight weeks. Iron ore prices traded near a five-month high as China's factory output and retail sales have increased for the past three months, signalling an economic recovery is accelerating. Ore imports reached 65.78 million tonnes in November, the second-highest level after a record 68.97 million tonnes in January 2011.

JAPAN

Gold rising

Gold futures climbed in Tokyo for the first time in four days as incoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pressured the central bank to raise its inflation target, boosting demand for bullion as a haven. Bullion for delivery in October advanced as much as 1.3 per cent to ¥4523 a gram ($US1660 an ounce) before trading at ¥4507 in late-morning trade on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange. Mr Abe, of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, said at the weekend he might amend the law governing the Bank of Japan if it failed to set a higher inflation target, driving the yen down 0.8 per cent. The yen touched 84.96 per US dollar, the weakest since April 2011. Gold prices are heading for a 12th straight annual gain.

MICROSOFT

Team change

Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, 63, plans to retire in 2014 after two decades and has shifted to a new role as a senior adviser to chief executive Steve Ballmer. Chief technical strategy officer Eric Rudder is taking over some of Mr Mundie's duties, overseeing research, privacy and security, as well as technology policy. Mr Mundie's job switch marks the second change to Microsoft's senior leadership team in two months. On November 12 the company announced Windows chief Steven Sinofsky was leaving. Mr Ballmer is putting in place a new team to start planning the next upgrade to Microsoft's operating system.

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