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Merkel Calls for Swift Action after EU Downgrades

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday Europe's new pact to tighten economic integration must be implemented quickly while Europe still faced a "long road" ahead to restore investor confidence.

"We are now called upon to implement quickly the fiscal pact, to implement it with determination... and not try to again soften it," she told reporters in the northern German city of Kiel.

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Saudi, Spain Ink Rail Contract for Pilgrim Route

Saudi Arabia has inked an $8.22 billion deal with a Spanish consortium to build a high-speed railway on the Muslim pilgrim route between Mecca and Medina, the state news agency SPA reported Saturday.

Spanish companies beat out French rivals in October for the contract to build the oil-rich kingdom's Haramain High Speed Rail Project (HHR).

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Eurozone Crisis Deepens as France, Austria Hit by Downgrades

The eurozone economy plunged back into crisis on Friday as France and Austria were stripped of their triple-A credit ratings and talks to agree a Greek debt write-down collapsed.

The euro plunged to 16-month lows against the dollar on what proved a grim Friday 13th for EU policy makers, and in particular for France's President Nicolas Sarkozy.

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China's Forex Reserves Fall in Last Quarter 2011

China's forex reserves, the biggest in the world, fell to $3.18 trillion in the last quarter of 2011, the central bank said Friday, the first quarterly fall since 1998 during the Asian financial crisis.

The huge foreign exchange reserves, which reflect the nation's imbalance of international payments, reached a peak of $3.274 trillion in October before beginning a slight decline, the bank said.

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GM Plans to Invest $1 Billion in Russia

U.S. auto giant General Motors will invest $1 billion (778 million euros) in Russia over five years to more than double production by 2015, the managing director of its Russian operations said.

"The reason we are there is we see opportunity," James Bovenzi said late Thursday at a dinner event organized by the U.S.-Russia Business Council on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.

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Energy-Hungry Japan in $34 Billion Australia Gas Deal

Japanese energy firm Inpex and French giant Total on Friday announced a huge $34 billion gas project in Australia, as Tokyo looks for alternatives to nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Japan has virtually no hydrocarbon resources of its own and is the world's biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to drive its energy-hungry economy, the third largest on the planet.

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Air France-KLM Announces 1 Billion Euro Cost-Cutting Plan

Air France-KLM said Thursday it would implement a three-year cost-cutting plan, including wage freezes and investment reductions, aimed at saving at least one billion euros ($1.3 billion) and reducing its debt.

The company said in a statement that its board of directors had approved "an ambitious three-year plan to restore profitability".

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Oil Rises Above $101 in Asia Amid Supply Fears

Oil prices rose above $101 a barrel in Asia on Thursday as concerns loomed that a strike in Nigeria and heightened tension in Iran would threaten global oil supplies.

Benchmark crude for February delivery rose 61 cents to $101.48 a barrel in late Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell by $1.37 to settle at $100.87 in New York on Wednesday.

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ECB to Begin New Year with Rates on Hold

The European Central Bank, which has cut interest rates the past two months, looks set to hold its fire until it can better assess how effective its previous actions have been.

Last month -- on the same day that EU leaders met in Brussels in what was seen as a make-or-break crisis summit -- the ECB brought Eurozone borrowing costs back down to their previous historical low of 1.0 percent, effectively reversing this year's two earlier rate hikes.

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Italy Wins Merkel Praise as German Economy Slows

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday assured Italy its tough austerity measures would be "rewarded", amid signs her own economy was grinding to a halt as tensions in Eurozone markets simmered.

Capping a flurry of diplomatic activity as leaders strive to stem the crisis that threatens to tip the 17-member Eurozone into recession, Merkel expressed "great respect" for Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's reform efforts.

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