A look at economic developments around the globe

AP News
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Posted: Dec 31, 2009 1:31 PM

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

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LONDON _ World stocks mostly edged higher as traders headed into the long New Year holiday weekend in a fairly upbeat mood following a nine-month bull run that has seen many markets advance over 50 percent since March. In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 15.02 points, or 0.3 percent, at 5,412.88. That meant it closed out the year 22 percent higher but the decade down 22 percent. Meanwhile, France's CAC-40 ended its shortened session less than a point higher at 3,936.33, finishing the year up around 23 percent but the decade 35 percent lower.

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BEIJING (AP) _ China criticized a U.S. decision to slap antidumping duties on Chinese-made steel pipes, demanding that Washington reverse the move and saying its goods are no threat to American producers. The U.S. International Trade Commission decision will affect Chinese exports worth about $2.8 billion and is the biggest steel trade dispute in U.S. history. Meanwhile, China imposed a tax on sales of previously nontradable shares in an apparent attempt to reassure investors by discouraging a possible flood of shares from entering the market and depressing prices. China's main stock index ended 2009 with an annual gain of 80 percent after shares edged up following a year of heavy government stimulus spending and bank lending. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5 percent, or 14.54 points, to 3,277.14, up from 1,820.81 on the last trading day of 2008. The Shenzhen Composite Index for China's smaller second exchange added 0.6 percent, or 7.44 points, to 1,201.34.

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PARIS _ France's economy may have ended 2009 with a slight acceleration in the pace of its recovery, the country's finance minister said. Speaking on French radio, Christine Lagarde said fourth quarter economic growth would be in line "or slightly better" than the 0.3 percent growth France recorded in the third quarter. Lagarde also noted that France's economic decline in 2009 was only half as severe as some of its European neighbors. Earlier this month France's national statistics agency forecast "a difficult turnaround" for the French economy in 2010, with growth of 0.3 to 0.4 percent in the first half of next year.

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LONDON _ U.K. house prices rose 5.9 percent in 2009, a major mortgage lender said, but analysts expect the market to slow down next year. Average prices rose 0.4 percent in December compared to November as the rate of increase moderated, according to the Nationwide Building Society, Britain's third-largest mortgage lender. The buoyancy of the house market in a year of a deep recession was surprising, but prices have been supported by factors unique to the downturn, including record low interest rates and fewer homeowners attempting to sell. The average house price in the U.K. is now 162,103 pounds ($261,600), Nationwide said.

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HANOI, Vietnam _ Vietnam's economy grew 5.3 percent this year, the slowest pace in a decade, as exports and investment wilted amid the global recession. The growth was the lowest since 1999, when gross domestic product expanded 4.8 percent, according to the General Statistics Office. Last year, the country's economy expanded 6.2 percent. The government has set a GDP growth target of 6.5 percent for 2010. The GSO said in a statement that inflation slowed to 6.9 percent this year, down from 23 percent recorded last year, which was the highest since 1991. Vietnam's trade deficit narrowed to $12.1 billion this year, down from a record high of $17 billion last year.

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SEOUL, South Korea _ North Korea has banned the use of foreign currency, another sign its hard-line communist government is intent on reasserting control over the country's nascent market economy. Reports say the decree warns of severe punishment for anyone using U.S. dollars, euros, yuan and other non-North Korean currencies. Foreign currencies previously were accepted in some shops, restaurants and other outlets, particularly those catering to foreigners. The order, issued by North Korea's state security bureau and going into effect Jan. 1, aims to "forbid the circulation of foreign currency," China's state-run CCTV television said in a brief report.