Manufacturing growth speeds up, employment down slightly in Dec. Greek manufacturing growth accelerated in December thanks to higher output and more new orders, a monthly survey of around 300 companies by NTC Research showed yesterday. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 51.8 from 50.7 in November, staying above the 50 waterline between growth and contraction. «Output in the Greek manufacturing sector grew at a solid rate that was the sharpest for three months. New orders expanded at a moderate rate, while export orders increased for the first time since September, albeit only marginally. Meanwhile, backlogs of work declined at the fastest rate for 17 months,» said NTC. «Input cost inflation eased for the second month running, though it remained strong… Manufacturing employment declined for the fourth straight month, as firms looked to reduce costs. However, the rate of contraction was only marginal… Stocks of finished goods declined for the sixth month running, as firms fulfilled orders directly from their inventories.» (Reuters) Tellas cuts international call rates in response to main rival OTE Fixed-line phone company Tellas will cut the costs for international calls by up to 33 percent, compared with its main rival OTE effective Jan. 27, it said yesterday. Calls to fixed-line telephone numbers in Western Europe, the Balkans, Australia, the US, Canada and the Far East will cost 0.165 euro per minute, the operator said. The cost of calls to Eastern Europe and Israel will be 0.198 euro per minute. Tellas, a joint venture between Greek electricity utility Public Power Corp (PPC) and Italian telecoms company Wind, is seen as the most serious rival to former monopoly OTE. OTE had reduced its prices for calls to European Union countries and Albania by up to 29 percent last month. (Reuters) Record car sales Car sales in Greece have broken all previous records in 2004, rising by 12.6 percent yearly and reaching 289,753 units sold. This reversed the decline seen in 2003 and is attributed to car company representatives’ offers both in prices (which are now in European levels) and in funding. Toyota topped the sales chart with 26,441 cars sold, or 9.1 percent of all sales. Hyundai and Opel followed with 8.6 and 8.1 percent, respectively. Volkswagen was fourth, just ahead of Ford. Retail sales Greece’s retail sales rose 7.5 percent year-on-year in October after a 5.3 rise in September, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said yesterday. Supermarkets, with a growth of 10.3 percent, and department stores and apparel/footwear, with an increase of 10 percent each, led the rise. SPAR NASDAQ-listed SPAR Group, Inc, a diversified international marketing services company, yesterday announced it has entered a joint venture agreement with Field Insights of Romania. SPAR will hold a 51 percent interest in the new entity, which will operate under the name SPAR Marketing Romania, and will provide merchandising services to manufacturers and retailers throughout the country.