Business news in brief: Oil prices | HSE | United Arab Emirates

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OIL prices rose yesterday amid hopes that US President Barack Obama would reach a deal to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff” after cutting short his Christmas holiday in Hawaii to fly to Washington and continue negotiations with Republicans.

Brent crude by 1 per cent to about $110 a barrel on Boxing Day, having fallen on Christmas Eve as traders feared a deal would not be reached.

Obama was expected to arrive in Washington early this morning, the White House said, after a brief break in Hawaii. Members of Congress were also expected to return to the US capital today and begin budget negotiations to avoid massive tax hikes and spending cuts.

HSE warns firms to renew safety focus

Employers are being urged to focus on “real risk” during 2013 after 20 workers lost their lives while at work in Scotland last year – an increase of six on the previous year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has called on business to rethink workplace safety provisions after the number of deaths in Great Britain as a whole failed to show a significant fall in 2011-12.

A total of 173 workers were killed at work in Great Britain last year, compared to 175 worker deaths during 2010-11.

The 20 deaths and 2,240 major injuries in Scotland last year compare to 14 deaths and 2,660 major injuries in 2010-11.

UAE’s banks turn bad debt corner

Outstanding provisions for bad loans set aside by banks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) fell in October for the first time since the global financial crisis began building in 2008, central bank data yesterday showed.

Experts said that the small drop does not yet indicate an end to the corporate debt problems that have weighed on UAE banks’ earnings over the past several years, but it does suggest that the lenders are over the worst of those problems, helped by solid economic growth and a fledgling recovery of Dubai’s commercial property market.