A look at economic developments and activity in major stock markets around the world Thursday:
FRANKFURT _ The European Central Bank left its main interest rate unchanged at a historic low of 1 percent on and took the first steps to withdraw some of its extraordinary liquidity support now that recovery is under way.
Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet told reporters the economy of the 16 countries that use the euro will grow at a moderate pace next year, but that the recovery would be "uneven and subject to risks" as firms try to shore up their finances in the wake of the most savage recession in generations.
Trichet said the current rate was "appropriate" _ an indication that interest rates won't change anytime soon _ and the decision to keep borrowing costs unchanged was unanimously agreed by all members on the governing council.
But given that the recession in the eurozone has ended _ figures earlier confirmed that the eurozone economy grew 0.4 percent in the July-September quarter _ Trichet said the ECB could start unwinding some of the extraordinary liquidity measures that were introduced to prevent the collapse of the banking system.
LONDON _ Economic figures provided little evidence that the 16 countries that share the euro are enjoying a strong recovery from recession.
Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, confirmed that the eurozone's economy grew by 0.4 percent in the July-September quarter from the previous three-month period _ unrevised from its previous estimate _ and that retail sales were flat in October from the previous month.
According to Eurostat, Greece and Spain remained the only two eurozone countries in recession. Germany, the currency bloc's biggest economy, posted quarterly growth of 0.7 percent.
The third quarter rise was the first in six quarters and brought to an end Europe's sharpest recession since World War II.
The EU as a whole, which includes non-euro members such as Britain and Sweden, grew by 0.3 percent, just above the previous estimate of 0.2 percent, while retail sales rose 0.3 percent in October from the previous month. In addition to Greece and Spain, Estonia, Cyprus, Hungary, Romania and Britain continued to see output shrink during the quarter.
In European trading, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 0.3 percent, Germany's DAX fell 0.2 percent while the CAC-40 in France ended up 0.1 percent.
CAIRO _ International ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut the ratings of six Dubai government-backed entities to junk status amid worries about the emirate's willingness to back its indebted companies.
S&P said the downgrades reflect its view that the Dubai, while committed to backing its government-backed companies, "does not consider (their) credit standing or financial obligations as its priority responsibilities."
Dubai World, the emirate's biggest conglomerate, is looking to restructure roughly $26 billion of its $60 billion in debt.
The news has sparked fears that heavily indebted Dubai could default on its debt obligations, estimated to be as high as $100 billion.
TOKYO _ Japanese stocks were boosted by a fall in the value of the yen which, if sustained, could help exporters _ Japan is particularly dependent on exporting its cars and electronics for its economic growth. The Nikkei 225 stock average jumped 3.8 percent. Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.2 percent, South Korea's index rose 1.5 percent and Australia's benchmark rose 0.3 percent. Shanghai lost 0.2 percent.
SEOUL, South Korea _ North Korean authorities threatened "merciless punishment" for defiance of new currency rules, activists said, as the change sparked panic and despair among merchants left with piles of worthless bills.
North Korea informed citizens and foreign embassies Monday that it would redenominate its national currency, the won, diplomats said. Residents in the reclusive communist country were told they have until Sunday to exchange a limited amount of the old bills into new ones, they said.