A look at economic developments around the globe

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 1:56 PM

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

___

LONDON _ Britain's two biggest banks, HSBC Holdings PLC and Barclays PLC, reported strong investment banking profits and signaled that bad debts may be nearing their peak, raising hopes the worst of the financial crisis is over for them.

The success of HSBC and Barclays in weathering the storm _ both rebuffed a government bailout of the banking system _ contrasts with their beleaguered taxpayer-supported counterparts, including Lloyds Banking Group PLC, which announced plans to shed 5,000 more jobs.

European stocks were mixed after Monday's big gains. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares and Germany's DAX both closed down 0.1 percent, while the CAC-40 in France ended a minuscule 0.1 point higher at 3,785.59.

___

BRUSSELS _ European Union finance ministers confirmed they would start withdrawing billions of euros in government support for their economies by 2011 at the latest.

But Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said it was "premature" to end targeted support to the financial sector.

The EU's executive commission has suggested ending bank aid in June 2010, when it says governments should hike the price of state guarantees for banks.

Governments will also eventually have to shed stakes they bought to rescue banks with extra capital over the last year and end programs that purchase problem assets.

Meanwhile, the finance ministers backed new financial oversight rules for bankers' pay and how much extra capital banks should set aside to cover high-risk investments.

The new rules still need the support of the European Parliament before they could enter into force, in late 2011 at the earliest. Finance ministers said they were prepared to negotiate the details of the rules with lawmakers before they are finalized.

___

PARIS _ The global financial crisis has led to a dangerous drop in energy investment around the world, which could choke off the nascent economic recovery, the International Energy Agency said.

The warning comes just a month ahead of the major UN climate conference in Copenhagen, where world leaders hope to agree on so-called climate finance to help developing countries cut emissions by switching from fossil fuels to cleaner energy such as wind and solar.

The IEA, a policy adviser to 28 mostly industrialized oil-consuming nations, estimates that the financial and economic crisis is responsible for a $90 billion drop in global oil and gas investment this year, a 19 percent cut from 2008.

"Falling energy investment will have far-reaching and, depending on how governments respond, potentially serious consequences for energy security, climate change and energy poverty," the IEA said in its annual World Energy Outlook report.

___

SINGAPORE _ The Great Recession has been painful but quick for most of Asia. Leaders gathering for a regional summit here this week are seeking to ensure the recovery stays on track.

Sustaining the region's economies once big stimulus packages ebb is the next challenge, and leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum say the focus must now shift to freer trade.

Singapore broached the issue with an ambitious call for an Asia-Pacific free trade area that would comprise about half of global trade.

Asian stocks were mostly higher. Japan's Nikkei stock average added 0.6 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged up 0.3 percent and South Korea's markets gained 0.4. Shares were also higher in mainland China, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines.

___

WASHINGTON _ China must continue to work to boost domestic demand to avoid global imbalances in the flows of trade and investments between nations, a senior U.S. Treasury official said.

World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin on Monday said China should not be forced to let its currency appreciate as a way to rebalance the world economy. That runs counter to the views of the Obama administration.

The Treasury official said he had not had a chance to read the remarks of Lin, the first Chinese national to serve as chief economist at the World Bank. But the U.S. official said the administration did not see the remarks as a shift from the official Chinese government position that it plans to introduce policies that will allow its currency to gradually rise in value against the dollar. That move is seen as critical by many to lower the huge trade deficits the U.S. runs with China.

___

FRANKFURT _ A leading survey showed German investor confidence fell in November from October.

The ZEW indicator dropped 4.9 points and now stands at 51.1, but is still well above its historical average of 26.9 points.

___

OSLO _ Norway's oil fund posted a record quarterly return of 13.5 percent on investments in the third quarter due to a rebound in international stock markets, the central bank said.

Norges Bank said the 325 billion kroner ($57.8 billion) in returns lifted the value of the Government Pension Fund-Global to 2.55 trillion kroner at the end of the July-September quarter. The fund was worth about 2.12 trillion kroner a year earlier.

Norway invests its vast oil wealth in the sovereign wealth fund, commonly known as the oil fund, which it uses to finance its cradle-to-grave welfare system while protecting against inflation.

___

BRUSSELS _ Greece faces formal criticism from other EU nations for failing to cut back a ballooning budget deficit, the EU's top economy official Joaquin Almunia warned.

___

LONDON _ U.K. retailers reported their best year-on-year growth since 2002 in October, with sales up 3.8 percent from a year earlier, the British Retail Consortium said.

But the authors of the report said the gains will be difficult to sustain.