ECONOMY

In Brief

Construction costs continue to decline The rate of increase of building costs slowed further in the first quarter of 2009, according to the National Statistics Service. In the January-March period this year costs rose by 1.8 percent compared to the same period last year, when they had registered an annual increase of 4.1 percent. In comparison to the last quarter of 2008, costs actually declined by 1 percent owing to the drop in prices of materials by 1.2 percent against October-December 2008 and in labor costs by 0.8 percent. The general index of construction materials showed a minimal 0.4 percent increase in March year-on-year, against rises of 5.7 percent and 7.3 percent in the same months of 2008 and 2007 respectively. However, when compared with February prices it registered a 0.4 percent decline, against monthly rises of 1.4 percent and 0.8 percent in the previous two years. This is considered to be another clear sign of the crisis engulfing the construction and housing markets, which is having a direct impact on other sectors, too. Elval Aluminum buys 55 pct stake in ETEM unit Elval Aluminum Process Co, Greece’s only producer of flat rolled aluminum products, bought a 55 percent stake in a unit of ETEM SA. Elval bought the holding from the light-metals producer for 7.4 million euros, according to a bourse filing from ETEM yesterday. (Bloomberg) Low exports Greece is lagging behind its partners in the European Union in the area of exports, the Exporters’ Association of Northern Greece said yesterday, basing its assessment on Eurostat data. In January 2009 Greece dropped one more position in the ranking to find itself in 22nd spot among the 27 EU countries. In the eurozone, Greece ranks 14th among 16 member states. January saw a 21 percent decline in exports compared with the same month of 2008. There was also a decline in imports, which according to Eurostat dropped by 21 percent or 800 million euros, while the National Statistics Service estimates their decrease to have been at 31 percent year-on-year. Romania-IMF Romania’s center-left government yesterday signed the letter of intent to get a 20-billion-euro, International Monetary Fund-led aid package designed to underpin markets and pump fresh cash into the battered emerging economy. The country of 22 million people on the European Union’s eastern frontier is the third member of the bloc to be bailed out after Hungary and Latvia, as world financial turmoil wipes out sources of funding for an economy heavily reliant on foreign cash. The aid package was agreed between Romania and the lenders on March 25. «We are on the right track in implementing this deal,» Prime Minister Emil Boc told reporters. «It is very important, with help from this accord, to back economic recovery, to relaunch borrowing and save existing jobs.» The loan package gives Boc’s cabinet some breathing room by allowing it to run a budget deficit barely below last year’s 5.2 percent of gross domestic product. (Reuters)