A look at economic developments around the globe

AP News
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Posted: Oct 22, 2010 1:09 PM
A look at economic developments around the globe

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

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GYEONGJU, South Korea (AP) _ The U.S. pressed emerging nations to set targets to reduce their vast trade surpluses with the West, a plan that could see their currencies rise, as a global finance summit fumbled for ways to reduce tensions that threaten to escalate into a trade war.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's proposals, outlined in a letter to the Group of 20 major developed and emerging nations, met with immediate resistance on the opening day of a two-day meeting of top finance officials. Japan's Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Friday called the idea of targets "unrealistic."

The gathering of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors in the South Korean city of Gyeongju comes just two weeks after their meeting in Washington failed to iron out currency differences that have led to fears of a trade war that could trigger another economic downturn.

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LONDON (AP) _ World stocks were steady as investors waited to see if finance ministers from the leading 20 industrialized and developing countries will be able to calm tensions in the currency markets during a meeting in South Korea.

In Europe, Germany's DAX was closed down 0.1 percent at 6,605.84 while the CAC-40 in France ended down 0.3 percent at 3,867.87. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.3 percent, at 5,738.97.

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BERLIN (AP) _ German business confidence has risen to a 3 1/2-year high as gloom lifts over managers' outlook, defying expectations of a fall, a closely watched survey found.

The Ifo institute said its confidence index, a key indicator for Europe's biggest economy _ rose to 107.6 points for October from 106.8 in September.

That was the fifth consecutive rise, and a much steeper one than its marginal increase the previous month. It took the index to the highest level since May 2007, before the financial crisis, when it stood at 108.4. Economists had expected a slight decline.

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PARIS (AP) _ Shoving striking oil workers aside, French riot police forced a strategic refinery to reopen, aiming to halt growing fuel shortages as the Senate looked ready to approve the controversial pension reforms at the heart of the union protests.

The refinery at Grandpuits had been a bastion of resistance to President Nicolas Sarkozy's bid to raise the retirement age to 62. Despite the government's efforts to conquer union resistance, the prime minister said it will take several more days to end gasoline shortages that are taking a toll on France's economy.

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PARIS (AP) _ The complete shutdown of France's refineries and a rolling transportation strike that has disrupted life for almost two weeks couldn't have come at a worse time for the country's economy.

Economic arguments make up the backbone of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's case for reforming the money-losing pension system, which is piling up billions of euros (dollars) in deficits while France's debt reaches unprecedented heights.

Sarkozy says France can no longer afford its system of generous benefits for people to retire at 60, and that pushing retirement back by two years is necessary if France is to get its finances in order. The country is obliged by European Union rules to bring its deficit down to 6 percent of GDP next year and to 3 percent by 2013, from a forecast 7.7 percent this year.

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HONG KONG (AP) _ The Asian insurance unit of American International Group Inc. said it will raise about $18 billion from its Hong Kong listing _ helping AIG to repay a massive U.S. government bailout.

AIA Group Ltd. said in a statement that shares in the initial public offering will be sold at HK$19.68 each _ the top end of an earlier announced range that started at HK$18.38.

It will also increase the size of the offering by 20 percent to 7.03 billion shares, raising the estimated proceeds to $17.8 billion.

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TOKYO (AP) _ Japan plans to mine in Vietnam for rare earth metals used in high-tech manufacturing in a bid to reduce its dependence on China, which virtually monopolizes the global supply of the strategic materials, officials said.

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GENEVA (AP) _ Switzerland and Canada signed an agreement to make it easier for Ottawa to chase down suspected tax cheats who have stashed their money in the Alpine nation's vaults.

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OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norway has appointed a new central bank chief who besides overseeing monetary policy will also manage one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds.

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HAVANA (AP) _ Cuba has laid out details of a sweeping tax system for the newly self-employed _ a crucial step in the socialist state's plan to convert hundreds of thousands of state workers into self-employed businesspeople.

The tax code described in a two-page spread in the Communist Party newspaper Granma will have many Cubans paying more than a third of their income to the state, while those who create businesses and hire their own employees will pay more.