ECONOMY

In Brief

ECB official wants bond purchase program to stop European Central Bank governing council member Axel Weber said the ECB should stop its bond purchase program, threatening to remove a lifeline for European governments and banks trying to shore up their finances. «These securities purchases should now be phased out permanently,» said Weber, who also heads Germany’s Bundesbank, in a speech delivered in New York yesterday. With policymakers debating when to withdraw other emergency measures, Weber said the risk of «exiting too late» is greater than the danger of «exiting too early.» The remarks, the strongest from any ECB official advocating a removal of stimulus measures, came as governments and banks in Ireland, Portugal and Greece struggle to convince investors they can fix their budgets and balance sheets in the aftermath of this year’s sovereign debt crisis. The intervention may also influence some European leaders as they decide who to appoint as the next ECB president when Jean-Claude Trichet retires next year. «His comments certainly didn’t do his ambitions for the ECB presidency any favors,» said Jacques Cailloux, chief European economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, in London. (Bloomberg) Bulgarian jobless rate falls for seventh month SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s jobless rate eased for a seventh consecutive month to 9.0 percent in September, mainly due to a pickup in jobs at schools at the beginning of the new academic year, the Labor Ministry said yesterday. The number of unemployed in the Balkan country fell by 3,849 from a month earlier to 334,671 as the economy slowly recovers from a prolonged recession, data showed. The unemployment rate in August was 9.1 percent. The jobless rate in the European Union’s poorest member had climbed steadily between the end of 2008 and February this year, when it peaked at 10.3 percent. The economic downturn has forced many companies to halt or significantly cut operations and has made 100,000 people jobless since January 2009. The economy grew by 0.5 percent in April-June on a quarterly basis, the first quarterly expansion since the country plunged into recession in the beginning of 2009. The Finance Ministry, which expects Bulgaria to return to modest growth of 0.7 percent this year, hopes to keep the unemployment rate in the single digits. Eurobank Poland Raiffeisen Bank International AG is interested in Polbank, the Polish unit of Greece’s EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA, newspaper Wirtschaftsblatt reported, citing an interview with CEO Herbert Stepic. «Polbank certainly is a possibility to grow stronger in the Polish market,» Stepic told the Vienna-based paper. «There’s an interest, but there haven’t been any negotiations yet.» The Polish market is «too interesting in the long term to only have a niche policy,» Wirtschaftsblatt cited Stepic as saying. Raiffeisen Bank isn’t interested in buying Bayerische Landesbank’s MKB Bank in Hungary, the CEO also told the paper. (Bloomberg) Gas pipeline Moscow and Bucharest yesterday signed an agreement to study Romania’s participation in a Gazprom-led gas pipeline, another blow to Europe’s efforts to loosen Russia’s grip on energy supplies. Alexei Miller, chief executive of Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer, clinched a preliminary agreement after talks with Romanian Premier Emil Boc and other top officials in Romania. «Alexei Miller and the CEO of Transgaz SA, Florin Cosma, signed a memorandum of intent on the preparation of technical and economic feasibility studies for the passage of the South Stream pipeline through Romanian territory,» Gazprom said in a statement following the talks. (AFP) New companies Cypriot new-company applications will continue to rise as the economy rebounds, Kostas Christophides, assistant director general at the Employers and Industrialists Federation, said. «Young businesspeople are becoming increasingly active,» Christophides said in a phone interview yesterday. «New filings are mainly in the service sector, particularly in the financial and business-related services.» While business startups may not be profitable in their first year, they have a positive impact on the performance of the eastern Mediterranean island’s economy, Christophides said. (Bloomberg)