A look at economic developments and activity in major stock markets around the world Wednesday:

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LONDON _ Official figures show economic growth in the Group of 20 leading industrial and developing economies slowed in the final three months of 2011 as the European Union contracted because of its debt crisis.

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BEIJING _ Chinese government curbs that have started to cool surging housing prices will remain in place, the premier said, despite complaints they might lead to an economic slowdown.

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LONDON _ Markets were buoyant a day after a fairly rosy assessment of the U.S. economy from the Federal Reserve boosted confidence about the state of the world's largest economy.

Germany's DAX closed 1.2 percent higher, and the CAC-40 in France rose 0.4 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.2 percent.

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TOKYO _ In Asia, most stocks outside of China were higher. Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.5 percent as the yen continued to retreat from record highs against the dollar.

Hong Kong and mainland Chinese shares lost ground, with property developers among the biggest decliners, after Premier Wen Jiabao said government curbs that have started to cool surging housing prices will remain in place.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.2 percent. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 2.6 percent. The Shenzhen Composite Index plunged 4.1 percent.

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LONDON _ Official data shows that Britain's unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent in the three months from November through January, up from 8.3 percent in the previous three months.

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MILAN _ Italy easily raised $7.83 billion in a pair of bond sales that saw the country's borrowing rates continue to drop.

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BERLIN _ The German government says Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet approved the European Union's new permanent bailout fund, paving the way for it to be brought before both houses of Parliament for a vote.

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KUWAIT CITY _ Saudi Arabia's top oil official said his country and other oil exporters are ready to offset any shortfalls in supply, as fears of a showdown with Iran over its nuclear program help drive prices higher.

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BEIJING _ China's premier suggested the rise of the yuan against the dollar has ended, possibly fueling tensions with the U.S. amid complaints the tightly controlled currency is undervalued and distorts trade.

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SEOUL, South Korea _ South Korea is implementing its long-stalled free trade deal with the U.S. about five years after the two countries struck the accord aimed at slashing tariffs and other trade barriers.

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OSLO, Norway _ Norway's central bank cut its key interest rate by 0.25 percentage points to 1.5 percent as it tries to ease the impact of the economic downturn across Europe.

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