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A look at economic developments around the globe

A look at economic developments and activity in major stock markets around the world Monday:
/ Source: The Associated Press

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


GENEVA — The World Trade Organization will launch an investigation into American import taxes on Chinese tires at a meeting of trade diplomats next week.

The dispute focuses on a three-year tariff approved in September by President Barack Obama, which aims to slow China's rapid export growth and protect American jobs in the tire sector.

It is the latest in a series of trade battles over subjects ranging from steel and song downloads to patents and poultry between the U.S., the world's biggest importer, and China, the top exporter.


LONDON — Britain is beginning to count the economic cost of its longest cold snap in 30 years as vegetable crops are spoiled, workers remain trapped at home and shoppers stay away from the traditional January sales.

With temperatures forecast to remain just above freezing in most of the country for at least another week, the Federation of Small Businesses estimated that the final bill for the stretch of bad weather could top 13 billion pounds ($21 billion).

There are also reports of panic buying of grocery staples and warnings of higher food prices because of blighted harvests and delayed deliveries, despite reassurances from major retailers of adequate stock levels.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A top official for the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund said the bulk of its holdings are still in the U.S. and Europe, and that the Abu Dhabi fund sees "significant, long-term investment potential" in both regions despite the global downturn.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority's managing director said "many substantial risks" remain as the global economy struggles to recover, however. Among the threats he cited are policies that could restrict cross-border investments by big overseas investors such as ADIA.


LONDON — European stocks finished narrowly mixed after Asian markets rose following the news that China's exports in December jumped nearly 18 percent, well above the 5 percent increase expected in the markets and the first increase in more than a year.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares and Germany's DAX each rose 0.1 percent while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.1 percent.

In Asia, meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng benchmark index and Shanghai's main index each added 0.5 percent, Singapore's market rose 0.3 percent and Australia's index was up 0.8 percent. South Korea's Kospi benchmark gave up early gains to close down 0.1 percent.

Japan's stock market was closed for a holiday.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's prime minister says his government is close to reaching a long-delayed deal with the International Monetary Fund for a loan.

Turkey is plagued by high debt and unemployment and aims to increase investor confidence with the aid.

National news reports say Turkey was eyeing some $25 billion.


RIGA, Latvia — Consumer prices in Latvia fell 1.2 percent in December from the previous year, the result of spending cuts and weak demand in the European Union's most troubled economy.

The result is a stark contrast to the previous two years, when Latvia's overheated economy fueled double-digit inflation.

On a monthly basis December prices were down 0.5 percent — the ninth straight month that prices fell, Latvia Statistics said.


VIENNA — Austria's finance minister says he wants his country's central bank to be fully nationalized to make financial supervision more efficient.

The federal government currently owns about 70 percent of Oesterreichische Nationalbank's capital. The remaining 30 percent is held by employer and employee organizations, as well as banks and insurance corporations.

Josef Proell is quoted by the Austria Press Agency as offering up to euro50 million ($72.7 million) for the remaining stake.


JERUSALEM — Israel's central bank has raised its economic forecast for 2010, citing an improved outlook for global growth and world trade.

The Bank of Israel now expects the economy to grow 3.5 percent this year, compared with its previous September forecast of 2.5 percent.

The bank said the recovery of the global economy has increased demand for Israeli exports.


BEIJING — Thousands of Chinese officials have fled overseas with as much as $50 billion in their pockets in stolen government funds during the country's economic boom over the past three decades, China's top prosecutorial office said.

Using the services of criminal gangs in other countries, former officials are often able to launder money, buy real estate and obtain fake IDs, according to an article posted on the Web site of the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

The report from the top prosecutor's office said developed nations, including the United States and Australia, have become "heaven for those in hiding."

A joint multi-agency government task force has been set up to stem the flood of corrupt officials stealing and escaping the country.