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February 21 2013, 07:46AM

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


BRUSSELS - Eurozone nation Cyprus is a genuine and growing default risk, the global credit rating giant Standard & Poor's says.

LISBON - Portugal's government expects the country's recession to be a deeper 2.0 per cent this year than it earlier thought, Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar says.

LONDON - Top officials in the Bank of England have expressed growing concern over Britain's economy and come closer to backing another monetary stimulus in a move piling further pressure on the pound.

LONDON - Britain's unemployment rate edged higher to 7.8 per cent in the three months to the end of December from 7.7 per cent in the three months to the end of November, official data shows.

ATHENS - Police in Athens have fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters as thousands of Greeks walked off the job to join the debt-ridden country's first general strike this year and oppose austerity measures.

MADRID - Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, delivering his first state of the nation address as he fends off a party slush-fund scandal, has declared he has slashed the deficit and averted economic catastrophe.

MADRID - Spain cut its public deficit below seven per cent of gross domestic product in 2012, against a target of 6.3 per cent set by European authorities, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Wednesday.

MADRID - Thousands of striking workers of Spanish flag-carrier Iberia have protested noisily in Madrid, furious at management's plans to cut 3,800 jobs following its merger with British Airways.

WASHINGTON - Several Federal Reserve policymakers were concerned last month about the risks of the Fed's efforts to boost the US economy by keeping borrowing costs low for the foreseeable future.

WASHINGTON - Construction of new US homes slowed in January while building permits edged up, according to government data released on Wednesday that pointed to continued recovery in the housing sector.

GENEVA - Foreigners who move to Switzerland are set to face a tax hike from January 1, 2016, according to a Swiss tax authority timetable.

BERLIN - Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed caution over whether the revolutionary oil and gas technique of "fracking" may be introduced in Germany, saying public safety is the main concern.

STOCKHOLM - Volvo Cars, which is owned by Chinese car maker Geely, is to cut up to 1000 jobs by the end of the year, the company's chief executive has told Sweden's public broadcaster SVT.

LONDON - Collapsed British music retailer HMV will shut another 37 branches over the next six weeks, in a move that will shed 464 jobs, administrators Deloitte says.

LUSAKA - The Zambian government has seized control of a Chinese-owned coal company due to poor compliance with safety and environmental standards, the mines minister says.

TOKYO - Japanese officials probing the emergency landing of a Boeing Dreamliner say the plane's battery pack was improperly wired, but added this was unlikely to have caused it to overheat.

FRANKFURT - Lufthansa, Europe's biggest airline, says it plans to order eight long-haul aircraft and 100 short- and medium-haul aircraft from Airbus and Boeing for a total 9 billion euros ($A11.75 billion)).

JOHANNESBURG - AngloGold Ashanti, the third-biggest gold producer in the world, has reported a 47 per cent plunge in net profit in 2012 to $US849 million ($A824.11 million).

TOKYO - Sony says it will book a $US1.2 billion ($A1.16 billion) gain from selling part of an online medical services unit, the Japanese electronics giant's latest asset sale as it eyes a full-year profit.

WELLINGTON - Westpac Banking Corp's New Zealand unit lifted first-quarter earnings 9.7 per cent as it widened its interest rate margins, although its bottom line was eroded by unrealised changes in the value of its financial instruments.

NEW YORK - Office Depot and OfficeMax have announced a merger to create a US office-supplies retail giant better designed for an increasingly competitive retail landscape.

SAN FRANCISCO - Yahoo is renovating the main entry into its website in an effort to get people to visit more frequently and linger for longer periods of time.

WELLINGTON - The New Zealand dollar extended its slide from Wednesday when Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler outlined possible responses to a high kiwi and traders latched onto his use of the word intervention.


SYDNEY - The Australian dollar has fallen more than one US cent as it looks likely there could be an early end to the US Federal Reserve's stimulus program.

SYDNEY - The Australian market looks set to open lower after Wall Street fell on mixed US housing and inflation figures.