A look at economic developments around the globe

AP News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2011 2:08 PM
A look at economic developments around the globe

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

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CAIRO _ An almost 7 percent plunge in Saudi Arabia's stock market and Egypt's decision to further delay the restart of Cairo's exchange _ which has already been shuttered for over a month _ spotlight the impotence of Arab governments in managing the political and economic fallout from the protests engulfing the Mideast.

Across the region, governments have pledged billions of dollars in new assistance for their neediest citizens in a frantic bid to pre-empt the kind of demonstrations that led to the ouster of Tunisia's president and then his Egyptian counterpart.

But the money has failed to appease a population in a region where unemployment is rife, poverty even more pronounced and the majority of the population is below the age of 30.

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SHANGHAI _ China's manufacturing boom slowed to a six-month low in February as authorities tightened controls on credit to cool inflation and factories eased output, especially of food and textiles.

A weeklong holiday for the Lunar New Year was partly to blame, said the state-affiliated China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, which releases the measure.

Despite declining for three months, the reading has remained above 50, the benchmark for expansion, for two straight years.

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LONDON _ Renewed jitters in oil markets weighed on European stocks despite a forecast-busting U.S. manufacturing survey and few indications from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that he's willing to back higher interest rates anytime soon.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 1 percent, Germany's DAX fell 0.7 percent and the CAC-40 in France ended 1.1 percent lower.

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TOKYO _ Earlier in Asia, Wall Street's recovery Monday boosted sentiment with most key benchmarks closed higher.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average closed up 1.2 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended up 0.3 percent and China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 percent.

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LONDON _ The recently agreed tax cuts in the U.S. will help Europe's economic recovery pick up some steam this year despite rising energy costs and debt troubles in a number of countries that use the euro, the EU's executive said.

However, inflation is also on the rise amid sky-high oil prices due to the turmoil sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa, the European Commission warned.

In the latest projections, economic growth in 2011 is expected to be somewhat stronger than anticipated last autumn as Europe's larger exporting nations enjoy better demand from the U.S.

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FRANKFURT, Germany _ Germany's central bank gave its blessing for Chancellor Angela Merkel's former economic adviser, Jens Weidmann, to become its new president.

In his new job, Weidmann will have a seat on the European Central Bank's governing council.

Weidmann is replacing Axel Weber, who is stepping down a year before his eight-year term expires.

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TOKYO _ Japan's jobless rate held steady in January but consumer spending fell from a year ago, underscoring the fragility of its economic recovery as a political battle rages over the next national budget.

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TORONTO _ Canada's central bank left its key interest rate unchanged for the fourth consecutive time, and reiterated that any hikes in the future would have to be carefully considered.

The Bank of Canada, which held its benchmark rate at 1 percent, said the global recovery is proceeding in line with the bank's projections, but the risks remain elevated.

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MADRID _ Spain's finance minister says the country has surpassed its deficit-reduction goal for 2010 even though some regional governments overspent.

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BERLIN _ Germany's unemployment rate dipped to 7.9 percent in February as harsh winter weather eased and Europe's biggest economy kept on creating jobs.

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ISLAMABAD _ Pakistan hiked oil prices by 9.9 percent, a move that threatens the stability of the fragile, U.S.-allied civilian government at a time of economic turmoil in the impoverished country.

Spikes in international oil market prices _ spurred by uprisings in Libya and other parts of North Africa and the Middle East _ forced the raise in Pakistani prices, said a spokesman for the country's oil regulator.

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LONDON _ Fitch Ratings cut its rating on Libya for the second time in just over a week, citing increasingly chaotic political and economic conditions in the oil-rich North African country.

The agency reduced its rating on Libya to junk status.

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BRUSSELS _ The European Union's justice commissioner asked publicly listed companies to appoint more women to corporate boards and threatened them with imposed quotas if they don't.

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast _ Ivory Coast's government banned residents from filling jerrycans with gas as fears of a shortage grow amid the deepening political crisis.

The West African nation is girding itself for shortages and an economic slowdown after sanctions were slapped on the country's incumbent leader, Laurent Gbagbo, who is refusing to step down.

The European Union has banned ships from docking at Abidjan's port and gas stations are seeing their fuel supplies dwindle. Several gas stations have already closed.

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BEIJING _ A top engineer in China's powerful Railway Ministry has been fired amid a widening corruption probe that has already brought down the minister, state media reported.

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BAGHDAD _ Iraq's oil exports climbed to their highest level in February since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, boosted by a resumption in exports from the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north, a senior oil official said.

The country, which overwhelmingly relies of oil revenues for its budget, also benefited from the spike in higher crude prices triggered by the violent uprising in Libya that has led to a 50 percent cut in production from that OPEC member.

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BEIJING _ The U.S. government labeled China's top search engine, Baidu, and a popular e-commerce platform "notorious markets" linked to sales of pirated and fake goods.

The two companies were among 33 websites or public markets in China, Russia, India and other countries that the U.S. Trade Representative's office said facilitate trade in music, clothing and other goods that are fake or unauthorized copies.

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VIENNA _ Austria's National Bank ordered the freezing of assets belonging to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and his entourage in line with EU sanctions.

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GUANGZHOU, China _ Inflation is one of the biggest concerns for foreign companies operating in booming southern China, according to an annual survey released by a major U.S. business group.

Just over half of about 400 member companies polled by the American Chamber of Commerce in southern China reported that rising prices would have a negative impact on business this year.

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CANBERRA, Australia _ A government forecaster says rising global prices and growing demand for food and energy will help boost Australian commodity exports by almost a quarter to $221 billion in the current fiscal year.

The forecast comes despite floods and storms that slashed farm and coal sales by almost $5 billion.

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LONDON _ Pearson, the publisher of the Financial Times and Penguin books, froze dividend payments on shares held by the Libyan Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund controlled by the country's government.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary _ Hungary's economic minister revealed plans to substantially cut state debt and budget deficit levels by 2014, but more details of the reforms will be known only in the coming months.

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LAGOS, Nigeria _ Nigeria's government says it is building eight industrial plants to turn the oil-rich West African nation into a regional petrochemical hub.