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Business and City in Brief

Japan halves its trade surplus

Japan's huge trade surplus halved between July and August due to an unexpected surge in imports. Along with Bank of Japan intervention to buy dollars, the news gave a modest boost to the US currency against the yen at a delicate stage in trade talks between the two nations.

The surplus fell from dollars 12.2bn in July to dollars 6.08bn in August, although the sensitive bilateral surplus against the US edged up to dollars 3.49bn. Japan's exports grew 12.2 per cent year on year, but imports jumped 23.6 per cent.

US expansion

Economic activity in the US continued to expand in the summer months while prices were generally steady, the Federal Reserve said in its 'Beige Book' survey.

Publisher cleared

Harrington Kilbride, the contract publisher, has been cleared of fault after it had to withdraw its annual accounts for 1993. It asked the accountants KPMG Peat Marwick to do an independent audit in June. Bad debts from clients in eastern Europe, which did not come to light until after the results for 1993 had been published, meant it had to restate a profit of pounds 2.7m into a loss of pounds 800,000.

TV verdict

The board of the Independent Television Commission meets today to consider the future of the Channel Five network. It will decide whether doubts about the channel's viability can be overcome by freeing new frequencies and will announce any decision to invite bids.

Advice initiative

The Chartered Insurance Institute has launched an initiative to improve the quality of financial advice given by those who pass its test, the Financial Planning Certificate, now mandatory for advisers. To remain certified by the institute, holders will be required to state each year that they are continuing professional education.

Card shuffle

The Oxfam Visa Credit Card is to be transferred from the Alliance & Leicester Building Society to the Co-Operative Bank on 17 September.

Body Shop passes

Friends Provident said that the committee of reference that advises on the acceptability of investments for the Stewardship range of trusts and funds remained satisfied with the activities of Body Shop.

Lack of knowledge

A study by Price Waterhouse and the Australian Society of Corporate Treasurers found concern about a lack of knowledge of derivatives among managers despite a view that the use of such products is necessary.

World Markets

New York: Encouraging comments by the Federal Reserve halted a decline. The Dow Jones Average closed 15.47 points higher at 3,895.33.

Tokyo: Declines in the futures market triggered some selling, taking the Nikkei average 126.73 points lower to 19,919.38.

Hong Kong: Selling from London hit late business, reversing gains and lowering the Hang Seng 90.61 points to 9,846.4.

Sydney: Listless trading left the All Ordinaries index with a 6.9- point improvement at 2,038.

Bombay: Closing weakness brought the index back to a quarter of a point below its starting level, finishing at 4,599.17.

Johannesburg: Mining-related shares leapt ahead, with the overall index up 15 points at 5,873.

Paris: In a market still searching for a clear direction, the CAC-40 slipped throughout the day to end 16.42 points off at 1,952.94.

Frankfurt: Lower bond prices dragged the DAX index down 11.97 to 2,124.12 in quiet trade.

Zurich: Undermined by losses on other European bourses, the Swiss Performance Index retreated 11.13 points to 1,740.7.

London: Report, page 20.