Briefs

TRADE

TRADE

Deficit trims

Australia's trade deficit narrowed in December, official figures show. The balance on goods and services was a deficit of $427 million in December, seasonally adjusted, compared with an upwardly revised deficit of $2.788 billion in November, the Bureau of Statistics said. During the month, exports rose 3 per cent, while imports fell 6 per cent.

AUTO INDUSTRY

Car sales rise

New vehicle sales made a strong start to the year, despite a sharp drop in purchases by state and federal governments. Sales of new vehicles were up 11.3 per cent last month compared with the same time last year, figures released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries show.

FROZEN FOOD

Sara Lee sale

Frozen foods supplier McCain Foods has acquired Kitchens of Sara Lee Australia from Hillshire Brands for $82 million. The acquisition includes a factory at Lisarow in NSW and licence rights to the Sara Lee brand.

SEARCH ENGINE

Baidu soars

Baidu, which operates China's most popular search engine, says its quarterly profit rose 36 per cent to 2.8 billion yuan ($431 million) as an economic rebound helped boost advertising spending. For the full year, profit rose 57.5 per cent to 10.5 billion yuan.

IRON ORE

Atlas increase

Atlas Iron says estimates for its Pilbara iron ore reserves have increased 21 per cent to almost 500 million tonnes over the past seven months. It comes a fortnight after Atlas indicated it could beat its full year sales guidance after shipping more lower-grade iron ore than expected in the December quarter.

SERVICES

Slide continues

Australia's services sector contracted for the 12th consecutive month in January, amid slowing activity in the mining sector and soft retail sales. The Australian Industry Group/Commonwealth Bank Australian Performance of Services Index rose 2.1 points to 45.3 in January. A reading of below 50 indicates a contraction in the sector.

INDONESIA

Solid growth

The Indonesian economy grew 6.23 per cent last year, supported by strong private consumption and investment. The Central Statistics Agency said in the three months to the end of December growth came in at 6.11 per cent year on year.

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