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South Korea trims 2015 growth forecast, vows to spur consumption
South Korea on Monday trimmed its economic growth forecast for 2015 to 3.8 percent from 4.0 percent as it vowed to continue expansionary policies aimed at spurring domestic consumption. The revised projection comes after the country's central bank this month warned its own 3.9 percent growth forecast would be "difficult" to maintain as domestic demand alternated between positive and negative territories and a weak yen hurt the price competitiveness of South Korean firms against Japanese rivals abroad. The finance ministry said Monday that, in addition to the 2015 growth forecast being lowered, its estimate for this year's economic growth was also revised down to 3.4 percent from 3.7 percent. South Korea's economy grew 3.0 percent last year.
China foreign minister says willing to help Russia
BEIJING (Reuters) - China is willing to help Russia if needed but believes that the country has the ability to overcome its current economic problems, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was quoted as saying in a state newspaper on Monday. The ruble has dropped about 45 percent against the dollar this year, suffering particularly steep falls early last week. President Vladimir Putin has declined to call it a crisis and said the currency would eventually rise again. ...
South Korea lowers outlook on weak private sector
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) ? South Korea lowered its growth forecast for next year, citing persistently weak sentiment among consumers and businesses. But the government predicted that overall economic conditions will improve from this year thanks to government measures, recovery in the U.S. economy and the fall in oil prices.
Belarus' president promises help for Ukraine
Obama says Putin presiding over economic contraction: CNN interview
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. president Barack Obama has rejected the charge that he has been outmaneuvered by Russian president Vladimir Putin, saying in a TV interview due for broadcast later on Sunday that Putin was presiding over "a huge economic contraction" due to the Ukraine crisis. Obama, in an interview with Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union" program rejected the notion that Putin "is the chess master and outmaneuvering the West and outmaneuvering Mr. Obama and this and that and the other." The United States and Europe have imposed a series of economic sanctions on Russia. ...
India Hindu group to press ahead on conversions in challenge to PM Modi
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The head of India's most powerful Hindu group vowed to press ahead with a campaign to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism, stoking a sensitive debate that has stalled parliament and threatened the prime minister's economic reform agenda. Mohan Bhagwat of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which is also the ideological wing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, said India was a "Hindu nation" where many Hindus had been forcibly converted to other religions. "We will bring back those who have lost their way. ...
Cuba's famed cigars get a foot in door of U.S. market
By Daniel Trotta HAVANA (Reuters) - Milagros Diaz has been rolling cigars for 48 years, so long she cannot even smell tobacco anymore, and she is thrilled that the U.S. market is finally opening up for her handmade Cuban "habanos". Since U.S. President Obama announced on Wednesday he would restore diplomatic ties with Cuba and start dismantling economic sanctions, Americans have been filing into the cigar shop at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, where she hand-rolls cigars using techniques little changed since the 19th century. ...
Australian PM Abbott reshuffles cabinet to focus on jobs, families
By Jane Wardell SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, battling a slide in public support, reshuffled his cabinet on Sunday, promoting the overseer of a tough immigration program and throwing out his gaffe-prone defense minister. Abbott said the shake-up was for jobs and families and stressed a focus on financial issues as he deals with the fallout of an unpopular belt-tightening budget. "It is a sign that this government wants the economy to be front and center in the coming year," he told reporters in Canberra. ...
In the dogfight over posh airline food, the sky's the limit
Michelin-star food and vintage champagne: airlines are pulling out all the stops to cater to their top-tier passengers' tastes, as they seek a larger slice of the highly profitable market. "Business class has become the main battleground for all companies because the market in this very profitable sector is highly competitive and the clients very demanding," said Bertrand Mouly-Aigrot, aviation expert at Archery strategy consulting. The consultancy estimates the airline food market is worth a tasty 10 billion euros ($12.3 billion) with a wide discrepancy between the various classes of travel. A dish in economy tends to cost between five and nine euros, business class between 15 and 30 euros and for first class, the sky is -- literally -- the limit.
ECB's Coene supports government bond purchases: newspaper
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Central Bank should start buying government bonds to tackle poor investor confidence and low inflation in the euro zone, governing council member Luc Coene said in an interview published on Saturday. The Belgian central bank chief said the bank had already waited too long, and that this could be one tool to spur economic activity in the 18-country euro zone and fight off deflationary pressures. "In this context, the purchase of sovereign bonds could prove to be an effective tool," he told La Libre Belgique. ...
Exclusive: Iran's support for Syria tested by oil price drop
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian businessmen and trade officials say they are worried the economic lifeline provided by Iran is under strain from plunging oil prices, despite public messages of support from Syria's strongest regional ally. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has relied on oil-producing Iran to help him fight insurgents in a nearly four-year-old civil war and also prop up a currency under pressure. ?If it had not been for Iranian support we could not have survived the crisis," a senior Syrian trade official said from Damascus, requesting anonymity. ...
Nigerian growth to slow, inflation to rise in 2015: IMF
ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria's growth rate is expected to slow to about 5 percent in 2015 as falling oil prices cut revenues and spending, the International Monetary Fund said on Friday. Africa's biggest economy will have to rely more on businesses outside its core oil sector in the medium term -- agriculture, trade, and services all helped it grow 6.1 percent in the third quarter of 2014, the fund added. Nigeria has been battered by the more than 45 percent decline in crude prices since the summer, in the run up to hotly contested presidential elections in February. ...
Obama says normalization offers best chance to influence Cuba
By Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Normalized relations with Cuba will give the United States its best chance to influence the communist-ruled island, President Barack Obama said on Friday, and he urged Congress to ease the U.S. economic embargo against Havana. Obama, who announced on Wednesday that Washington was restoring diplomatic relations with Havana, said the historic end of decades of hostility between the two countries would not bring quick changes but ultimately would lead to greater freedom for the Cuban people. ...
IMF, Ukraine fail to reach pact on next bailout tranche
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said Friday it had productive discussions with officials in Ukraine this week, but failed to reach an agreement that would pave the way for Kiev to receive its next bailout tranche next month. "We found that the Ukrainian authorities are preparing to move decisively on a broad and comprehensive agenda to stabilize and reform the economy, while coping with the difficult challenges that emerged in the last year," IMF mission chief Nikolay Gueorguiev said in a statement. ...
Russia's parliament rushes through bill boosting banking capital
By Elena Fabrichnaya and Alexander Winning MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's lower house of parliament hastily approved a draft law on Friday that would give the banking sector a capital boost of up to 1 trillion rubles ($16.5 billion). Russia's financial sector is reeling from the economy's slide towards recession, a plunge in the value of the rouble, and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, which have restricted banks' access to international capital markets, sharply raising their funding costs. ...
India tables 'biggest tax reform' since independence
India's government introduced legislation Friday billed as the biggest tax reform since independence, with analysts hailing it as a "game changer" that would cut the cost of doing business and boost economic growth. One of various reforms undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, the GST would swell public coffers by broadening the tax base, economists say. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called the GST the "single biggest tax reform since independence" of the country from Britain more than six decades ago. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won a crushing election mandate in May under leader Narendra Modi, aims to have the reform take effect from April 1, 2016.
Zambia royalty hike to force mine closures - chamber
LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia's decision to hike royalty rates on open pit mining from 6 percent to 20 percent will lead to shaft closures and 12,000 job losses, the chamber of mines said on Friday. Barrick Gold Corp. said on Thursday it would suspend operations at its Lumwana Copper Mine after royalty increases were passed into law in the 2015 budget. Lumwana produced around 118,000 tonnes of copper in 2013. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that economic growth in Africa's second largest copper producer will dip to 5.5 percent in 2014, from around 6. ...
US agriculture has big appetite for Cuba trade
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) ? U.S. agriculture has a big appetite for freer trade with Cuba. From wheat to rice to beans, the industry stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of President Barack Obama's plan to ease economic and travel restrictions imposed against the communist-ruled island.
European stock, oil markets steady
European stocks steadied on Friday following sharp gains the previous day, while oil futures rose slightly after sharp falls amid huge volatility across global markets ahead of the festive shutdown. Around midday in the British capital, London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares climbed 0.41 percent to stand at 6,492.63 points compared with Thursday's close. Global stock markets surged in a "Santa Claus rally" on Thursday as dealers welcomed the outcome of the US Federal Reserve meeting which signalled an interest rate increase was not imminent. Asian markets continued the trend on Friday, with Tokyo jumping 2.39 percent by the close and Hong Kong up 1.25 percent.
Nigeria to raise 1.2 trl naira in T-bills in Q1
LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria's central bank said on Friday it plans to raise about 1.22 trillion naira ($6.61 billion) in treasury bills in the first quarter of next year. The bank in an issuance calendar said it plans to issue 230.88 billion naira worth of 3-month treasury bills, 291.53 billion of 6-month paper and 700.56 billion in one year notes between Dec. 18 to March 5, next year. Nigeria, Africa's top economy, issues treasury bills twice a month to fund its budget and manage liqudity in the banking system. ($1 = 184.50 naira)