US auto sales set to smash record in 2015

CHICAGO (AFP): US auto sales were set to smash records in 2015 with December looking to be one of the best sales months in history as easy credit, hot new vehicles and strong consumer confidence lured buyers to showrooms. General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota reported strong December sales on Tuesday and forecast the good times would keep rolling in 2016. "The US economy continues to expand and the most important factors that drive demand for new vehicles are in place, so we expect to see a second consecutive year of record industry sales in 2016," said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM's chief economist. "The single most important pieces are the ongoing gains in employment and the growth in personal income.

When you add in

lower energy prices, it's easy to see why consumer spending is strong."

GM forecast that total industry sales for 2015 would hit 17.5 million vehicles once all carmakers report their results later

Tuesday.

That would beat the previous record of 17.4 million set in 2000 and be six percent higher than the 16.4 million vehicles sold

in 2014, according to WardsAuto.

"It's truly remarkable that the auto industry is finishing off its best year ever just six years after the depths of the

Great Recession," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the automotive website Edmunds.com.

While easy credit terms and low gas prices are making it easier for consumers to buy or lease new cars, Caldwell said it was

the attractiveness of product offerings that are sealing the deal.

"If you're buying a new car today, you're getting a safer, more fuel-efficient and more technologically packed vehicle than

ever before," she said in a statement. "Automakers are doing a great job giving the people what they want in a new car."

GM sales rose six percent in December to 290,230 vehicles while total 2015 sales for the largest US automaker were up five

percent at 3.1 million vehicles.

Ford sales were up eight percent in December at 239,242 and rose five percent in 2015 to 2.6 million vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler sales jumped 13 percent in December to 217,527, capping off 69 consecutive months of year-over-year sales

gains. Sales for 2015 were up seven percent at 2.2 million vehicles.

Toyota sales increased 11 percent in December to 238,350, the Japanese automaker said in a preview to its full results which

did not include full-year figures.

"2015 was a standout year for the auto industry," Bill Fay, general manager for the Toyota division, said in a statement.

"Best-ever light truck sales helped the Toyota division earn the retail sales crown for the fourth consecutive year."

Dollar declines against most Asian units as oil rebounds

TOKYO (AFP): The dollar declined against most Asian currencies Tuesday as a little confidence returned to regional trading floors on the back of a rebound in oil prices. Emerging currencies recovered some of their losses from the previous day, with the Indonesian rupiah, Malaysia's ringgit and the South Korean won higher. On Monday, the units received a battering after a weak round of manufacturing data out of China and a disappointing factory reading in the US fuelled a sell-off in global financial markets. The severing of diplomatic relations between old Gulf foes Saudi Arabia and Iran, over Riyadh's execution of a Shiite cleric, added to fears. On Tuesday, analysts warned against more volatility on the back of a weak outlook for global growth.

"Investors need to be more

cautious," Matthew Sherwood, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at Perpetual Ltd, told Bloomberg News.

"Growth remains

a concern. How the year plays out is unclear, but the only surety is that volatility will increase."

The greenback ticked up

to 119.45 yen from 119.42 yen Monday in New York, after dipping below 119 yen for the first time since October in US trade.

T

he euro fell to $1.0824 from $1.0833. It also dipped to 129.28 yen from 129.37 yen and is sharply down from 131.59 yen at the

end of last year.

However, crude prices bounced on Tuesday in Asia as analysts said a global crude supply glut and the weaker

outlook for China's huge economy were keeping any increases in check.

"Oil prices have risen, but not materially," research

house Capital Economics said.

"Indeed, ample global stocks of crude and higher production elsewhere mean that geopolitical

risks from the Middle East are not as great as they once were," it said in a market commentary.

The South Korean won rose

0.03 percent against the dollar, while the Indonesian rupiah gained 0.88 percent.

Malaysia's ringgit tacked on 0.15 percent,

the Thai baht was up 0.03 percent and the Singapore dollar advanced 0.01 percent.

However, Taiwan's dollar declined 0.08

percent.

China economy weighs on

consumer tech spending

LAS VEGAS (AFP): Spending on personal tech gadgets is taking a hit from the economic slowdown in China and the strong US dollar, researchers from the Consumer Technology Association said Monday. The CTA forecast that $950 billion will be spent globally on consumer electronics this year in a two percent drop from the $969 billion spent last year, while the number of actual units shipped will see little change. "We are seeing pretty flat demand while we wait for new innovations to reach consumers," CTA senior director of market research Steve Koenig said as the premier Consumer Electronics Show prepared to get under way in Las Vegas.

Koenig cautioned that technology spending comparisons were "challenged" by a very strong dollar and prices dropping on market mainstays such as smartphones and tablets.

"We really see the global economy starting to get back on track as we wrestle with a range of issues," Koenig said.

"I think the biggest thing we are starting to come to grips with is the normalization of the slowdown in China."

- Technology triumvirate -

Smartphones and tablet computers were expected to account for 46 percent of the money spent this year on consumer

electronics, but new categories such as "wearables," drones and virtual reality gear should be making their presence felt in

the market, according to Koenig.

When mobile computers such as laptops are included with smartphones and tablets,the share of sales in the year was predicted

to be 58 percent or some $551 billion.

"Over half a trillion US dollars," Koenig said of the forecast. "I give you technology's triumvirate: laptops, smartphones

and tablets."

He wondered aloud regarding the potential for tablets to be squeezed out by large-screen smartphones and portable computers

such as the Lenovo Yoga, which are designed with screens that can be removed and used as touch-controled tablets.

Smartphone shipments were predicted to cool a bit this year, growing about eight percent to 1.4 billion devices.

Smartphone adoption is being pushed by progressively lower prices, which is especially important in markets such as China,

Africa, and the Middle East where high-end handsets are out of reach for many people.

- Rise of 'wearables' -

Meanwhile, the overall category of wearable computers that includes smart watches should continue its "meteoric rise" and

there will be "no shortage"of wearable computing gadgets on the CES show floor that officially opens on Wednesday, according

to Koenig.

Emerging markets were seen as continuing to be central to growth in the consumer electronics market, with India becoming a

driving force as China shifts to lower, steady growth after a long run of booming expansion.

"Even a small slowdown in China can have really big knock-down effects around the world," Koenig said of the chilling effect

it has had on other regions, especially those where exporting commodities is important.

"Most companies are going to start looking increasingly to India as the new place for double-digit growth year over year."

LCD televisions remain "the king of screens" with sizes trending up. One in every five televisions sold this year was

expected to be 50 inches, measured diagonally, or more and feature ultra high-definition 4K resolution.

Televisions were likely, once again, to be stars on show floor at CES, but new talent in the form of drones, robots, 3D

printers, and virtual reality, along with smart cars and homes were expected to grab attention and momentum.

"Make no mistake, innovation is really reshaping the global technology industry," Koenig said.

PR leases out 1,556 acres during last two years

ISLAMABAD (APP): Pakistan Railways has leased out 1556 acre land in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through fair and transparent method during last two years to earn more revenue. Pakistan Railways has collected an amount of Rs. 366.58 million from the leases so far, a senior official in the Ministry of Railways told APP. The land was leased out though advertisement in the newspapers to ensure transparency and though auction process, the official added. Valuation of land and evaluation of bids and execution of agreements with the successful bidders was being done by the Assessment Committee and independent valuators, he informed.

The official said that a total 1198 acres land leased out in Punjab, in which 1139 acres was agricultural land and 58 was commercial, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 74 acres land leased out in which 69 was agricultural land and four acres was commercial while in Sindh 276 acres was agricultural land and six acres was commercial.

Pakistan Energy Forum and

Exhibition on Feb 25

Lahore (Staff Reporter): The 8TH Pakistan Energy Forum 2016 organized every year by SHAMROCK Conferences International (www.shamrockconferences.net) will be held on Feb 25, 2016 from 9.30 a.m. at the Ramada Hotel, Islamabad. As an added attraction, the Forum will also feature an Exhibition of products and services by a host of companies engaged in energy-related activities in Pakistan. The theme of the conference is “Impact of Large Scale Transnational Ventures” and will determine how strategic decisions in this sector will pave the way to meet energy demand and drive economic prosperity. Prolific speakers will dilate and present updated information on hydrocarbon, hydel & thermal, renewable energy and investments activities in the country.

The annual conclave of key stakeholders is expected to attract several investor groups from countries who have desired to assist Pakistan with its pressing energy needs. The concerned ministries, regulatory bodies, exploration and production sector, power producing and distribution companies, oil marketing companies and organizations engaged in renewable resources will also be featured at the forum.

Menin Rodrigues, Chairman of the Conference said, “Pakistan’s energy demand is growing incessantly, political clout waning, production is insufficient and power shortages are challenging industries and regulators. The oil and gas industry, the power sector and alternate renewable sources, including coal have the answer, and responsibility, to come up with immediate solutions.”