Business and City In Brief

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Germany's trade surplus widens

Germany's 1993 trade surplus rose to DM59.4bn from DM33.7bn the previous year. Imports dropped to DM544.1bn from DM637.5bn, while exports fell to DM603.5bn from DM671.2bn. The current account showed a deficit of DM36bn for 1993, compared with DM39.4bn the previous year.

Germany's large current account surplus swung into the red following unification.

SIB seeks advice

The Securities and Investments Board will set up a consumer panel to advise it on recommendations now coming forward about how to deal with pension transfers and opt-outs. The panel, chaired by Oonagh McDonald, a SIB board member, will complement an industry advisory committee that is also working on the pension problem.

British Steel sale

British Steel will sell its seamless tube finishing business in Scotland to Vallourec of France for an undisclosed sum. The operations include the Clydesdale Works at Bellhill and the nearby Imperial works, employing 440.

Firms cool on tool

Small firms see the BS5750 quality standard as a marketing tool to keep existing customers and win new ones rather than an aid to improving the consistency of their quality, according to research publised by the Small Business Research Trust.

Post Office joins up

The Post Office has joined the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland to produce a feasibility study into how companies can raise the standards of reporting in their annual accounts.

New tax on moves

New laws restricting tax relief on relocation expenses threaten to raise the typical cost of moving an employee by up to half to more than pounds 35,000, according to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry's employee relocation council and Ernst & Young, the accountants.

High societies

Bradford & Bingley Building Society reported a 47 per cent increase last year in pre-tax profits from pounds 91.3m to pounds 134.3m. The group made profits of pounds 107.8m in 1991. The increase was largely due to a drop in bad debt provisions from pounds 81m to pounds 43.7m. Coventry Building Society's pre-tax profits were up 30 per cent at pounds 32m, and Newcastle Building Society's profits rose 7.1 per cent to pounds 9.45m.

Applied profits

Applied Distribution, which is coming to the stock market next month, reported pre-tax profits of pounds 2.23m ( pounds 1.76m) in 1993 on turnover up 23 per cent to pounds 26.4m.

World Markets

New York: The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 24.20 points to close at 3,911.66 after Alan Greenspan's testimony on interest rates placated the markets - temporarily.

Tokyo: The weaker yen partially offset light profit-taking, leaving the Nikkei 225 index down 51.31 points at 19,342.63.

Hong Kong: Late futures gains propelled the Hang Seng index 222 points higher at 10,678.

Bombay: The BSE index shed 20.76 points to 4,108.76 after large recent gains.

Sydney: The All Ordinaries index recouped half of Monday's losses on bargain-hunting, gaining 24 points to 2,202.5.

Johannesburg: The overall index eased eight points to 4,823 as investors stayed on the sidelines ahead of Wall Street's opening.

Milan: Nervousness inspired by approaching elections left the Mitbel index 211 points adrift at 10,713.

Paris: A firm tone in bonds reassured markets, lifting the CAC- 40 index 11.53 points to 2,226,73.

Madrid: Early strength on Wall Street nudged the general index 1.2 points ahead to 339.62.