In Brief

Greek economic sentiment improves in January Greek economic sentiment improved last month as stronger business confidence across the board lifted the index to 107.6 points, the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said yesterday. Greece’s overall economic climate index is based on business expectations sub-indices covering industry, construction, retail trade, services and consumer confidence. «In January, the rise in Greece’s economic sentiment index was mainly due to more positive projections on current business activity and an upbeat outlook in the coming months,» IOBE said. «By contrast, consumer confidence reverted to more negative expectations after December’s improvement.» Based on the data, business conditions in industry, services and retail trade improved overall with the construction sector also giving a positive reading, reversing a three-month drop. «Retail trade recorded the highest monthly performance since 1999, the result of a much more positive outlook on sales,» IOBE said. (Reuters) Services sector created most new jobs in 2006 Tourism and trade along with construction created the majority of the 201,000 new jobs in the private sector in Greece over the 2004-2006 period, according to the National Statistics Service. The public sector created 55,000 new jobs in the same period, most of them covering the so-called inflexible needs of the civil service. Meanwhile, unemployment fell from 11.3 percent in March 2004 to 8.3 percent in the third quarter of 2006. Unemployment in Bulgaria The unemployment rate in Bulgaria stood at 9.67 percent in January, increasing slightly from the previous month, the government said yesterday. The rate in the first month of the Balkan country’s full EU membership was down by 2 percentage points from January 2006 and up 0.55 percentage points from December 2006. The total number of unemployed in January stood at 358,079. (AP) Navibulgar sell-off Bulgaria is to sell off most of the state company that runs this Black Sea country’s marine fleet, the government announced yesterday. According to the country’s privatization agency, 70 percent of Navibulgar shipping company’s capital will be put up for sale, with only investors in maritime transport activities being accepted. The remaining 30 percent of the company will be offered for sale to the buyer after a period of five to six years. (AP) LNG ship sale Norwegian gas shipper Golar LNG has agreed to sell its interest in a vessel under construction to Maran Gas for a gross consideration of $92.5 million, the company said yesterday. «This represents an implicit vessel price of $201 million,» Golar said in a statement. Maran Gas is a company controlled by the Greek Angelicousis shipping group. Golar said it estimated its book cost of investment in the vessel at completion of the sale to be about $51.5 million. (Reuters)