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China Economy Swells at 13-Year High; Wii Sales Trigger Nintendo Target Raise; Nokia Pockets 67% Profits in 2007; Average Interest Rates Lowest Since 2004; Morgan Stanley Slashes 1,000 Jobs ; Gold Breaks $910, Platinum Breaks Record; Tata Motors Eyes U.S. Market; Lehman Bros. to Cut 140 Traders
- China's economy grew at an 11.2% clip in the fourth quarter, propelled by its growing and consumer-driven middle class. The pace for the quarter slowed from that of the third, 11.5% but closed out 2007 with an overall growth of 11.4% – the largest rise in annual economic growth in 13 years. "The risk of the economy shifting from rapid growth to overheating still exists," Xie Fuzhan, director of the National Statistics Bureau, said at a news conference, .
- Profits for Kyoto-based video game maker Nintendo Co., Ltd. surged 63% and sales rose 50% for its fiscal third quarter [period ended Dec. 31], Bloomberg reported. The Wii, the best selling game console last year – which bested both the Playstation 3 from Sony Corp. (SNE) and the Xbox 360 from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) – drove performance. Nintendo raised its target of Wii sales by 5.7% to 18.5 million consoles and software sales by 19% to 115 million units.
- Shares of Nokia Corp. (NOK) rallied 12% yesterday (Thursday) as the company reported fourth-quarter profits rose 44% to $2.63 billion and sales rose 34% to $23.13 billion, beating analysts expectations, the AFP reported. Full-year profits rose 67% and sales jumped 24%.
- A Freddie Mac (FRE) survey said that U.S. fixed-rate mortgages dropped to the lowest levels since spring of 2004, MarketWatch reported. The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans is 5.48%, a shred above 2004's average rate of 5.40%. Also, the rate for a 15-year fixed-rate loan averages 4.95%, significantly lower than last week's average rate of 5.21%.
- Morgan Stanley (MS), the United States' second largest securities firm behind Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), announced it would cut 1,000 jobs. "The firm is engaged in an ongoing process of assessing its personnel needs in light of overall market conditions, business priorities and individual performance," Jim Wiggins, a spokesman for the New York-based firm, told Bloomberg News. "This process will involve headcount reductions in some areas and additions in other areas."
- Gold surged 3% higher to above $910 an ounce yesterday (Thursday) and platinum hit a historic high, a sign that investors are distancing themselves from the dollar after Tuesday's swift, three-quarter-point rate cut. Gold finished the day at $907 and platinum ended at $1,615.
- Tata Motors Ltd. (TTM) has announced that it will be making its first foray into the U.S. market with its Ace mini-truck, which is powered by an electric motor, the Financial Times reported. "Tata Motors is working on an Ace vehicle with an electric motor in partnership with a U.S. company," a company spokesperson said Wednesday. Tata recently released the $2,500 Nano in India.
- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEH), the largest underwriter of mortgage-backed bonds, will let go 140 traders involved in home loans and securities, a person familiar with the matter, told Bloomberg News. The cuts are reportedly concentrated in structured finance, commercial real estate, securitization, trading of mortgages and collateralized debt obligations.