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December 31 2012, 07:42AM

A roundup of news in finance, economics and business from around the world:


WASHINGTON - Last minute talks have stalled between top US political leaders aimed at averting a fiscal calamity due to hit within hours, as Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for a lack of progress.

PARIS - The International Monetary Fund and European Commission officials have encouraged France and its eurozone partners not to fixate on deficit reduction targets if it would exacerbate the bloc's debt crisis.

BEIJING - A privately owned Chinese company is finalising the acquisition of an Australian mining firm that controls a major iron ore mine in west Africa, China's official Xinhua News Agency reports.

LOS ANGELES - A US judge has given preliminary approval to a $US1 billion ($A968.10 million)-plus settlement with Toyota Motor Corp in cases involving problems of sudden, unintended acceleration by its vehicles, a plaintiffs' lawyer says.

NEW YORK - Apple has agreed to drop its patent claims against Samsung's Galaxy S III Mini after the South Korean rival said it would not sell the gadget in the United States, a court filing shows.

TOKYO - Taiwan's Chinatrust Commercial Bank is in talks to take over a regional Japanese bank in what would be the first such foreign acquisition, a report says.

LONDON - The bonus pot at state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland will shrink this year as the bank pays an estimated STG350 million ($A547 million) fine for its role in the interbank lending rate scandal, according to reports.

GENEVA - Swiss authorities have frozen $US300 million ($A290 million) sitting in Credit Suisse accounts in Geneva held by the sons of deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the newspaper Le Matin Dimanche has reported.

PARIS - A French constitutional panel has thrown out a plan to tax the ultra-wealthy at a 75 per cent rate, saying it is excessive.

WASHINGTON - As if the fiscal cliff weren't enough - US milk prices could double in the new year unless Congress acts by midnight on Monday.

ATHENS - A Greek tax-dodging scandal has taken a new twist with the revelation that a former minister supposedly scrubbed names from a list of alleged tax avoiders.


SYDNEY - John Singleton has taken a stake in Fairfax Media and is joining forces with his long-time friend Gina Rinehart to push for a "significant" say in the company.

SYDNEY - Voters are the least pessimistic about their standard of living in the months ahead than at any time since the early months of the Gillard government, a poll has found.

WOODFORD, Qld, Dec 30 AAP - Prime Minister Julia Gillard has singled out education and the National Disability Insurance Scheme as two key areas her government will focus on before calling a federal election next year.