Price-fixing of energy probed

Britain ordered a full anti-trust investigation into its biggest energy suppliers yesterday after finding signs of tacit price co-ordination, launching a process that could result in the break-up of companies including Centrica and SSE. In a move that may usher in the biggest shake-up of Britain’s retail energy market since it was opened up 15 years ago, three regulators said competition was so weak and public trust so low that an investigation was needed. Centrica, the country’s biggest supplier which owns former monopoly British Gas, rejected any suggestion of tacit co-ordination on prices with other suppliers and warned the threat of a break-up was likely to result in lower investment. – Reuters


Growth figures revised upward

US economic growth had been a bit faster than previously estimated in the fourth quarter of last year, showing underlying strength that could bolster views that the slowdown in activity early in the year would be temporary, the Commerce Department said yesterday. Gross domestic product (GDP) expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate, up from the 2.4 percent pace reported last month after consumer spending was stronger than previously estimated. Economists had expected GDP growth would be raised to a 2.7 percent rate. The economy expanded at a 4.1 percent pace in the July to September quarter. Slower restocking by businesses than initially measured suggested underlying strength in the economy. – Reuters


Pollution forces Beijing exodus

China planned to move some administrative, research and health-care facilities out of its capital to a nearby city to ease the burden on Beijing, which was often wreathed in heavy smog and choked with traffic jams, state media reported yesterday. The environment has emerged as one of Beijing’s key priorities amid growing public disquiet about urban smog, dwindling and polluted water supplies and widespread industrial contamination of farmland. With a population of more than 21 million and more than 5 million cars on the road, Beijing’s living conditions are being pushed to their limits. A study by a Chinese government think tank released last month said that severe pollution had made the city almost uninhabitable for human beings, state media reported. – Reuters