A look at economic developments and activity in major stock markets around the world Thursday:
BEIJING _ Asian markets moved higher amid expectations China will maintain loose monetary policy. China's central bank said it would maintain a "relatively relaxed monetary policy" next year. That followed a three-week slide in share prices because of lower liquidity and a string of initial public offerings.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index jumped 2.6 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.9 percent, Seoul's Kospi added 1.3 percent and Taiwan's Taiex closed up 0.8 percent.
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose to a fresh three-month high as the yen's recent weakness lifted exporters amid thin Christmas season trade. The index gained 1.5 percent, to 10,536.92.
ATHENS, Greece _ Greece's Socialist-led parliament approved a 2010 budget aimed at reducing the country's high deficit by boosting tax revenues while slashing spending and restricting salaries and new appointments in the public sector.
The budget passed following a five-day debate in parliament and amid pressure from markets and other European Union countries.
Greece has promised to reduce the budget deficit from a projected 12.7 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 to below 9.4 percent next year, and as low as 8.7 percent if further cuts are successfully implemented.
LONDON _ European stock markets moved sideways in subdued holiday trading. The FTSE-100 index of leading British shares finished up 0.6 percent at 5,402.41, its highest level since Sept. 2008. France's CAC-40 gained nearly 0.1 percent, while Germany's DAX was closed for the day.
SINGAPORE _ Singapore's manufacturing fell the most in eight months in November as output of pharmaceuticals plunged.
Industrial production dropped 8.2 percent from a year earlier following a 3.2 percent increase in October. Pharmaceuticals, which are subject to big month-to-month swings in production and account for about a fifth of Singapore's industrial output, slid 53 percent, the Trade and Industry Ministry said.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand _ New Zealand's four biggest banks have agreed to pay a total of New Zealand dollars 2.2 billion ($1.5 billion) to settle the largest tax avoidance case in the country's history.
The four Australian-owned banks, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank's ASB, National Australia Bank's BNZ, and ANZ Bank, carried out a series of so-called "structured finance transactions" between 1998 and 2005 that were challenged by tax officials.
Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said the government was getting only 80 percent of the total owed by the banks, but welcomed the settlement as the end of a complicated five-year legal battle on behalf of taxpayers.