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SYDNEY, Jan 31 AAP

January 31 2013, 07:53AM

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

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

WASHINGTON - The US economy contracted at a 0.1 per cent rate in the fourth quarter last year, as Washington slashed defence spending and businesses trimmed inventories ahead of the feared fiscal cliff, Commerce Department data shows.

WASHINGTON - The US economy shrank from October through December for the first time since the recession ended, hurt by the biggest cut in defence spending in 40 years, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles.

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve has left its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged, saying the US economy had "paused" in recent months largely due to transitory issues.

MADRID - Spain's economy shrank at the fastest pace in more than three years in the final quarter of 2012, official data shows, casting a shadow over the prospects of nearly six million unemployed.

BRUSSELS - A controversial financial transactions tax to be levied by 11 eurozone nations could raise between 30 and 35 billion euros ($A38.95 billion and $A45.45 billion) per year, a European Union (EU) source says, confirming a report in the Financial Times.

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge has rejected Apple's demand to increase the $US1.05 billion ($A1.01 billion) in damages a jury ordered Samsung Electronics to pay its fiercest rival in the smartphone market.

CARACAS - Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA has signed a series of offshore gas development and drill-rig import agreements here with Russian state-controlled Rosneft, bolstering an alliance with a country that Caracas expects will be its top oil partner by 2021.

NEW YORK - US aerospace giant Boeing reported a sharp fourth quarter fall in earnings as expected on Wednesday, as tax costs surged from a year earlier but operating earnings gained on strong sales growth.

TOKYO - Japanese electronics giant Canon says its full-year net profit fell 9.7 per cent last year as it was hit by a slowdown in demand from debt-hit Europe and an export-sapping strong yen.

TOKYO - Japanese video games giant Nintendo says it returned to the black in the nine months to December and it's lifted its full-year profit forecast as it looks to shrug off a loss a year ago.

GENEVA - Growing demand for its cancer medicines and diagnostic tests used by clinical laboratories has helped Swiss drug-maker Roche Holding AG post a modest 2.4 per cent increase in full-year profits.

BEIJING - Personal computer-maker Lenovo Group says its quarterly profit has risen 34 per cent to a record high on strong sales of smartphones and tablet computers.

STOCKHOLM - Fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB is to press ahead with its global expansion plans with the opening of over 300 stores this year, even though it saw a modest decline in fourth-quarter earnings that the Swedish company blamed in part on higher investments in online shopping and the launch of a new brand.

NEW YORK - The new BlackBerry 10 has been unveiled as the former smartphone industry leader moves to regain momentum with a revamped operating system and a pair of sleek new handsets.

NEW YORK - Internet companies will soon have to find a way to protect user privacy to avert a "clash" which could lead to increased government regulation, eBay chief executive John Donahoe says.

WELLINGTON - New Zealand Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler singled out rising house prices as a threat to the country's financial stability as he kept the official cash rate at 2.5 per cent.

WELLINGTON - The New Zealand dollar rose after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand held the official cash rate at 2.5 per cent even though the central bank said the currency is overvalued.

WELLINGTON - The New Zealand dollar rose after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand held the official cash rate at 2.5 per cent even though the central bank said the currency is overvalued.

NEW YORK - World oil prices rose slightly, off earlier multi-month highs, as official data showed that the US economy contracted in the fourth quarter last year.

LOCAL NEWS

SYDNEY - The Australian dollar is lower amid speculation among international traders of further interest rate cuts.

SYDNEY - The Australian market looks set to open higher despite falls on Wall Street after data showed that the US economy contracted in the fourth quarter last year.