A look at economic developments around the globe

AP News
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Posted: May 11, 2011 12:59 PM
A look at economic developments around the globe

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

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CAIRO _ OPEC didn't change its 2011 oil demand growth forecast. But the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cautioned that there is uncertainty about the U.S. economic recovery and Japanese demand.

Oil prices have remained well above $100 per barrel for weeks, boosted by disruptions in Libyan oil output and concerns that the unrest in the Arab world could spill over to key OPEC members in the region.

OPEC is not expected to revise its oil production quotas when it meets in June.

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ATHENS, Greece _ Riot police made heavy use of tear gas and stun grenades to disperse youths throwing stones and petrol bombs as thousands of demonstrators marched through central Athens to protest the Greek government's harsh austerity measures.

The clashes came during a 24-hour general strike. Unions, like many economic experts, question the effectiveness of more austerity at a time when the economy badly needs growth _ or possibly a debt restructuring _ to emerge from its debt hole.

The country is expected to need more financial help beyond the 110 billion euros ($158 billion) that saved it from bankruptcy last year. But European officials, who have ruled out the possibility of Greece reneging on debt accords, say any new help would require more reforms.

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WASHINGTON _ U.S. companies sold the most goods and services overseas in nearly two decades. But a big jump in oil prices pushed the nation's trade deficit higher in March.

The trade deficit rose 6 percent to $48.2 billion, the highest level since June 2010 and up from $45.4 billion in February.

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SHANGHAI _ Auto sales edged lower in China in April, the first such decline in over two years, as dealers were dealt a double whammy from weakening demand and the spillover from Japan's earthquake disaster.

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BEIJING _ China's inflation eased slightly in April as repeated interest rate hikes and other controls began to cool an overheated economy.

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LONDON _ The Bank of England lowered its forecast for economic growth through 2012 because of government spending cuts and pressure on household incomes.

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LISBON, Portugal _ An international rating agency welcomed Portugal's 78 billion euro ($112 billion) bailout deal but warned the loan carries "significant implementation risk."

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HELSINKI _ Finland's finance minister said he has enough parliamentary backing for his country to support a European bailout for Portugal. Finland is part of the 17-nation eurozone and its approval is required for Portugal's bailout.

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FRANKFURT, Germany _ Italy's Mario Draghi is set to become the next head of the European Central Bank after Germany made clear that it would back him. Draghi will inherit the task of taming the continent's debt crisis.

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LONDON _ Markets were mixed in Europe and Asia.

Britain's FTSE 100 index closed down 0.7 percent, Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent while France's CAC-40 ended up 0.1 percent.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent, South Korea's Kospi index climbed 1.3 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 0.2 percent, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 1.2 percent while the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.3 percent.

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LONDON _ HSBC said it is aiming to trim costs by up to $3.5 billion and to target investment in high-growth economies as part of a new management team's strategy.

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BEIJING _ The starkly contrasting fortunes of two Chinese families, one affluent and one poor, offer a glimpse into how soaring food prices are playing out in the developing world.

Prosperity and a fast-growing middle class have cultivated more sophisticated and exotic tastes. Such luxuries as blueberries, avocado, asparagus, and endive, recently unattainable to all but the wealthiest, are now widely available in China's big cities.

But rising affluence has taxed the ability of farmers to meet growing demand while the rural labor pool dwindles. In the cities, retirees, civil servants and migrants on fixed or low incomes are feeling the pinch.

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MINSK, Belarus _ Cash-strapped Belarus completes its currency devaluation, and the currency's value plunges by 30 percent.