A Look at Other Countries’ Economies

By The Associated Press

A look at economic developments and activity in major stock markets around the world Tuesday:

BEIJING — China’s investments overseas nearly tripled from a year earlier to $20.5 billion in the third quarter as companies snapped up mining and oil assets, government data showed. Beijing is encouraging its companies to invest abroad to diversity an economy driven by exports and investment and to take advantage of sharp declines in asset prices due to the global economic crisis. Outward investment for the July-September quarter more than doubled versus the previous quarter, the Commerce Ministry said. Its figures do not include investment in bonds and other financial instruments.

PARIS — Facing France’s worst agriculture crisis in 30 years, President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to provide 1 billion euros in bank loans for cash-strapped farmers and promised to push the European Union to offer more aid. Speaking at a meeting with farmers in the Jura region of eastern France, Sarkozy said the aid package was in response to a crisis in French farming, which has seen prices for production shrink 20 percent over the last year as demand decreased amid the global credit crunch. Besides loans, he also pledged 650 million euros in other aid for the country’s farmers. The aid announcement comes after weeks of protests by farmers in France and across Europe, upset at falling prices for milk, cereals and other agricultural commodities that has shrunk their revenue.

LONDON — European stocks finished flat with investors uninspired by mixed reports on home prices and consumer confidence in the U.S., the world’s largest economy. Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.2 percent at 5,200.97, Germany’s DAX edged up 0.1 percent to 5,635.02 and France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.01 percent to 3,743.95. European markets had risen in morning trading, driven by oil stocks after the oil company BP’s third-quarter results beat analysts’ expectations, but those gains dwindled after a private research group reported that U.S. consumer confidence fell in October as job prospects remained bleak, fueling speculation that an already gloomy holiday shopping forecast could worsen.

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania’s economy rebounded in the third quarter, technically lifting it out of recession, although activity remains well below year-ago levels, official data showed. Statistics Lithuania’s preliminary estimate for a 6 percent increase against the second quarter beat most analysts’ expectations. The agency said activity was boosted by the agricultural sector. Some analysts were skeptical, however, and the Copenhagen-based bank questioned the Lithuanian agency’s use of constant and current prices to arrive at the quarterly change in gross domestic product.

ROME — Italy’s financial police visited 76 Italian branches of Swiss banks and related offices to ensure they are correctly reporting their financial transactions, officials said. The police and Italy’s tax authority said the effort was part of the country’s efforts to recover million in taxes from income held illegally abroad. Some 100 financial police agents checked the offices “particularly at risk” in a first wave of visits to guarantee the “precise and punctual” reporting of financial transactions to Italian authorities. Switzerland has recently been forced to relax its venerated banking secrecy laws after a series of flaps, including the admission by the UBS bank that it helped wealthy Americans use foreign accounts to hide assets from the U.S. tax authority.

BERN, Switzerland — UBS AG manager Mark Branson, who last year apologized for the bank’s assistance to U.S. tax evaders, has been appointed to the board of Switzerland’s financial services authority. Branson will head FINMA’s division for banks as of Jan. 1, 2010, the group said in a statement. Branson in 2008 apologized to a U.S. Senate panel for UBS’ assistance to U.S. tax evaders and announced that the bank would accelerate its withdrawal from the U.S. cross-border business. He was chief financial officer of UBS Global Wealth Management and Business Banking at the time. Under intense legal and political pressure from Washington, the Swiss government agreed earlier this year that UBS will divulge names of some 4,450 wealthy Americans suspected of dodging taxes through secret bank accounts.

TOKYO — Japanese shares closed lower following Monday’s losses on Wall Street, sending financial issues tumbling amid renewed concern about the health of the banking system. The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index lost 1.5 percent to close at 10,212.46 points. The broader Topix index closed down 1.7 percent at 895.48. Investors dumped shares after U.S. stocks fell Monday and anxiety grew about the market overheating given the troubles still facing major Western economies and a number of financial companies.

MUMBAI, India — India’s central bank kept key interest rates unchanged, but warned that inflation will rise faster than previously expected as the economy recovers and drought pushes up food prices. The Reserve Bank of India said in its quarterly policy review that headline inflation will likely hit 6.5 percent by March. That’s higher than its July prediction of 5 percent, and considerably higher than its medium-term inflation target of 3 percent. It reaffirmed its prediction of 6 percent economic growth, with an upward bias, for the fiscal year ending in March. The bank’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged is in line with expectations, but leaves unanswered the questions of when and how fast India will begin to unwind the huge monetary stimulus it pumped into India’s economy.

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait’s oil minister says OPEC is not expected to raise output before its members achieve “100 percent” compliance with production quotas. Sheik Ahmed Al Abdullah Al Sabah also told reporters that current oil prices are “very good,” and that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would hold a special meeting if oil hits $100 per barrel. The oil producing bloc, which includes Kuwait, has not changed its output targets since the end of last year when it said it was lowering production by 4.2 million barrels per day from September 2008 levels to shore up collapsing oil prices. While prices have since more than doubled, reaching $79 per barrel on Tuesday, OPEC quota compliance has been faltering. OPEC is scheduled to meet Dec. 22 in Angola.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Cargo handler DP World says trade volumes appear to be stabilizing after suffering their worst slump in decades because of the economic downturn. The world’s fourth-largest port operator says overall third-quarter cargo container volumes are down 6 percent versus a year earlier. That is a slower decline than the 10 percent drop the Dubai company reported in the first half. Despite expected challenges in the fourth quarter, the company says it is on track to meet market expectations. Chief Executive Mohammed Sharaf says the company is “beginning to see early signs of stability across the industry.” DP World runs ports in 32 countries worldwide.

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