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February 01 2013, 07:56AM

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


WASHINGTON - US consumers held tight to their wallets in December, the key holiday shopping season, despite a rise in incomes, according to Commerce Department data.

WASHINGTON - New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits rose last week but were still in line with an improving trend in the jobs market, government figures show.

FRANKFURT - Inflation in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, slowed to 1.7 per cent in January from 2.1 per cent in December, official figures show.

FRANKFURT - The German labour market remains surprisingly resilient to the Eurozone debt crisis, with unemployment in Europe's top economy falling to a four-month low, data shows.

MOSCOW - Russia's state statistics agency says the country's economy grew by 3.4 per cent last year, a fraction lower than the estimate given by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

BRASILIA - Brazil's jobless rate dipped to 4.6 per cent in December, its lowest level since record keeping began in 2002 in Latin America's economic behemoth, official statistics show.

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's gross domestic product (GDP) has grown around four per cent in real terms in 2012 and 3.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of the year, the Finance and Public Credit Secretariat says.

PARIS - US tyre maker Goodyear says it is set to close a loss-making plant in Amiens, northern France, which employs 1173 workers, following a long struggle with trade unions.

LONDON - An employee apparently fired from British music retailer HMV has let loose on the company's Twitter feed, comparing the latest round of layoffs to a mass execution.

WASHINGTON - Worldwide tablet sales jumped in the fourth quarter beyond even some of the most optimistic forecasts to 52.5 million, with Android-powered devices pacing growth, a survey has found.

LUXEMBOURG - The European Court of Justice has ordered Irish airline Ryanair to compensate passengers whose travel plans were thrown into chaos by the 2010 eruption of an Icelandic volcano, in a ruling with implications for the entire industry.

WASHINGTON - US antitrust authorities have sued to block the $US20.1 billion ($A19.4 billion) takeover of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo by Belgian-US giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, saying the combined firm would have too much power over the US beer market.

WASHINGTON - A US appeals court has refused to reconsider an an appeal from Apple that sought a ban on Google-branded Samsung smartphones amid the patent fight between the two companies.

WASHINGTON - Standard & Poor's has cut its rating of Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS), citing the revelation of more potential losses on derivatives issued by the bank.

LONDON - Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell says its net profits sank 14 per cent last year despite an upbeat final quarter, as the group battled headwinds including volatile oil and gas prices.

MADRID - Spanish bank Santander says its net profit plunged almost 60 per cent in 2012 as it wrote off nearly 19 billion euros ($A24.94 billion) in dodgy loans and property assets.

PARIS - French luxury goods giant LVMH, the owner of Christian Dior, has posted a sharp rise in profit and record sales for 2012, bucking poor economic conditions in Europe with solid growth in markets across the globe.

LONDON - British pay-TV giant BSkyB says net profit rose 10 per cent in the first half of its financial year, as the group bucked tough trading conditions with keen demand for its products.

OMAHA, Nebraska - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc is adding the Greensboro, North Carolina News & Record to its growing newspaper division.

LONDON - Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca says net profits sank 37 per cent last year, hit by the expiry of drug patents and "tough" markets, and warned revenues would fall further in 2013.

BUENOS AIRES - Petrobras Argentina, the Argentine unit of Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, said it was selling two companies that together have a 48.5 per cent stake in the holding company that controls electric utility Edesur.

LONDON - Oil prices diverged on Thursday as markets focused on US jobs data and after the market moved on a Federal Reserve monetary policy announcement as well as unrest in the Middle East region.

WELLINGTON - The New Zealand dollar rose to a four-month high against its Australian counterpart and gained against the greenback after a more upbeat assessment by the Reserve Bank stoked investors' appetite for the local currency.


SYDNEY - The Australian dollar is trading higher, rebounding following several days of weakness.

SYDNEY - The Australian market looks set to open higher despite falls on Wall Street and many European bourses overnight with investors still unnerved by US gross domestic figures.