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China and Japan Begin Direct Currency Trading

China and Japan started direct currency trading on Friday as Beijing marked another stage on its journey to foster the yuan's use internationally in line with its growing economic clout.

Market participants can now swap Japanese yen for Chinese yuan without having to use the U.S. dollar as an intermediary currency, making foreign trade settlement more convenient and cutting transaction costs.

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German Unemployment Falls Again

Headline unemployment in Germany declined further in May, shrugging off the eurozone debt crisis, although there are signs the downward trend is slowing, official data showed on Thursday.

The German jobless rate, which measures the proportion of people registered as unemployed against the working population as a whole, fell to 6.7 percent in May from 7.0 percent in April.

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Moody's Downgrades 9 Danish Banks

Moody's downgraded the credit rating of nine Danish banks Wednesday, citing the impact of the rolling Eurozone crisis on bank loan quality and on their fund-raising ability.

The nine, along with the Finnish subsidiary of one of the banks, saw their ratings cut one to three notches, with one of them, DLR Kredit, pushed three steps down into the junk-bond realm at Ba1.

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Euro under Pressure on Spain Worries

The euro plumbed two-year lows in Asia on Thursday as nervous traders ditched the single currency for safer units, including the yen and dollar, amid worries over Spain's faltering bank sector.

The euro changed hands at $1.2363 in Tokyo morning trade, against $1.2366 in New York late Wednesday, while it bought 97.54 yen, down from 97.76 yen.

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Iraq’s Energy Auction Gets Slim Interest on First Day

Iraq will hold the second and final day of an auction for a dozen oil and gas exploration blocks on Thursday, after hopes for the sale were dampened when just one deal was made on the first day.

The bid round, the fourth such auction to be organized by Iraq since mid-2009, comes amid progress in ramping up oil exports, which account for the vast majority of government income, and as Baghdad eyes higher gas production to increase woefully inadequate power supplies.

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S. Korea 'Expects Exemption From U.S. Iran sanctions'

South Korea expects to receive an exemption from new U.S. sanctions against Iran after significantly cutting its imports of Iranian crude oil, a senior foreign ministry official said Wednesday.

As part of efforts to pressurise Tehran over its nuclear programme, a U.S. law taking effect next month will impose sanctions on nations buying Iranian oil unless they can show such reductions.

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Japan Slashes Iran Oil Imports Amid Sanctions

Japan cut oil imports from Iran by 65 percent in April while boosting shipments from Saudi Arabia, official data showed Wednesday, amid Western efforts to squeeze Tehran over its atomic programme.

Resource-poor Japan, which relies heavily on Middle East oil, came under pressure earlier this year to curb imports from Iran, with Washington seeking to push Tehran into a corner over what it says is a nuclear weapons programme.

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Three Spanish Banks Approve Merger

Three Spanish savings banks, Ibercaja, Liberbank, and Caja3, said Tuesday their boards have approved a merger that would create the country's seventh largest bank by assets.

The new bank is estimated to have assets of around 120 billion euros ($149.6 billion).

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Eurozone Braced For EU Economic Report Cards

Vulnerable Eurozone giants brace Wednesday for annual economic and public finance report cards from Brussels that may demand policy changes -- or else threaten fines.

Issued for only the first time since Brussels was given the power to fine spendthrift states, all eyes will be on Spain, Europe's fourth-biggest economy.

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Iraq Offers 12 Oil and Gas Blocks in Latest Auction

Iraq will offer a dozen oil and gas exploration blocks in a two-day auction beginning on Wednesday that Baghdad hopes will boost its reserves and strengthen its position as a key producer.

The sale, the fourth such auction to be organized by Iraq since mid-2009, comes as the country ramps up its oil exports, which account for the vast majority of government income, and looks to boost gas production to increase electricity output, the shortage of which is a key complaint of its population.

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