January 1999


  • World News Today... daily headlines and abstracts
  • The Euro Officially Launched January 1, 1999
  • China's Snacking Preferences Are Regional
  • McDonald's Asian Expansion Reaches Sri Lanka
  • Brazil's Auto Sales Decline Lead to Ford Lay-Offs
  • Japan's Auto Sales Plummet
  • Textile Industry Growth Slows in Vietnam
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  • EUROPE -- The euro officially launched January 1, 1999 among the 11 nations which adopted the new European currency, including: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. (Sweden, Denmark and Britain chose to wait; Greece did not qualify to participate.) And according to economic indicators, two business days later, acceptance looks good and it was trading strongly at US$1.1776 -- above its launch level of US$1.1668.

    Indonesia sees the euro as a means to boost exports into Europe because the single currency would make transaction costs more efficient. And in Hong Kong, the quasi central bank announced that it may convert more of its US$88 billion in foreign exchange reserves into euros as a sign of interest in the currency as an alternative to the U.S. dollar. Other Asian central banks (which represent about 40% of the world's reserves) had similar plans. Many major firms are also converting their transactions to euros.

    It is expected that the euro will become the rival to the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen, improving world economic conditions in the future.

    Though the euro is off to an encouraging start, in practice, it is still a "virtual" currency as it will not be in consumers' wallets, as cash, until 2002. For now, the euro is limited to non-cash, credit card and travelers' check transactions.

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    BEIJING, China -- A 12-city study was conducted among more than 50,000 people throughout China to identify snack food behavior, by region. It was found that the country's dominant snackers lived in Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, where life is considered leisurely. And the type of snack foods they prefer in Chengdu and Shanghai are savory, rather than sweet. Residents of Shenyang, a major industrial city in northeast China, on the other hand, were apparently the least interested in snack foods, consuming only 65% of the average.

    The survey revealed that 47% of those surveyed bought any type of candy or sweets last year. 42.7% bought chocolate, and 66.1% bought ice cream. The survey also found that while the market for cookies in Guangzhou and Kunming was not great, there was a big market for cookies in Beijing and Tianjin where fewer people preferred candy and savory snacks.

    As with any major market, regional differences are evident in all sorts of eating and consumers' buying behavior. It is important to remember that generalizations should not be made until research is conclusive. And successful marketing programs need to be tailored according to regional consumer preferences.

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    OAK BROOK, Ill, USA -- Last October, McDonald's opened its first Sri Lankan restaurant, in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital. Colombo has more than one million residents and serves as a port-of-entry for hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. This recent expansion brings McDonald's total to 114 countries of operation. Out of respect for Muslim dietary practices followed by many Sri Lankans, the Colombo restaurant will serve the same menu found at McDonald's around the world, with the exception of pork.

    This store marks the 20th country McDonald's has added since they opened for business less than two years ago in near-by India. "We're optimistic that Asia will remain a strong and growing market for McDonald's. Our investment in Sri Lanka is the latest step in our long-term growth plans for Asia," said Jim Cantalupo, vice chairman of McDonald's Corporation and chairman and chief executive officer of McDonald's International.

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    SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Nearly 3000 workers were laid-off from their jobs last month at the Brazilian Ford Motor Co. factory. Yet workers continued to show up for work in an effort to spark discussion with management regarding alternatives to the lay-off, including reduced wages, shorter work week, etc. Ford claims the lay-off is necessary to assure the survival of the subsidiary, since sales had plummeted 40% since the Asian crisis began in1997 and no significant recovery is expected for the near future. The National Association of Vehicle Manufacturers indicated that sales plunged 29% during the first 11 months of 1998, compared to the same period the previous year. At present, Ford has approximately 200,000 unsold vehicles in inventory.
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    TOKYO, Japan -- Japan's economy is showing further signs of trouble as it impacts the automobile industry and consumers further delay purchasing new cars. December '98 automobile sales plummeted 23.5%, the 21st consecutive month of declines. Sales of all passenger cars fell 10% to 3.4 million since January 1998, while sales of all imported passenger cars fell 23.1% during the recent 10-month period, with imports from Japanese companies dropping more sharply than those of non-Japanese companies at 55.1%. Non-Japanese imports fell 18.3%. Domestic auto sales in 1998 suffered their worst fall since the oil crisis 24 years ago.

    Import executives don't appear optimistic for a full recovery in 1999 and are lowering their sales goals. Many also predict fierce competition at retail, expecting importers to develop new incentive programs to attract Japan's ever-shrinking potential customers.
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    HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnam's textile and garment sector growth has slowed, reporting an export turnover of US$1.35 billion at the end of 1998, showing no increase over 1997 levels.

    This stagnation is attributed to the economic turmoil in the Asian region resulting in narrower channels for distribution and trade, as well as the fluctuating prices of imported material and lost export contracts.

    Nevertheless, growth in this sector is expected for 1999 to US$1.5 billion by year-end.
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    Updated 1/25/99