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Spanish Debt Hits Record 84.1% of GDP

Spain's public debt hit a new record of 84.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2012, owing to increases both at the federal level and that of the country's 17 autonomous regions, official data released on Friday showed.

The figure, which gained 14.8 percentage points last year to total 884.4 billion euros ($1.15 trillion), was well above the European Union (EU) limit of 60 percent of GDP, but came in a bit below the government's own forecast of 85.3 percent.

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Lebanese Telecom Sector Supports the Rapid Growth of the Digital Market

March 14th, Beirut: A global boom in the digital sector has attracted the interest of telecom operators worldwide, who are working to carve their role in the ecosystem of mobile content, applications and services, with Lebanon as no exception.

Leading Lebanon’s push into digital is the Ministry of Telecommunications, which has driven major infrastructural improvements in the sector. Enabled by these developments, Lebanon has witnessed an exceptional growth in 3G subscriptions, jumping from 280,000 users in 2011 to more than 1.3M users today according to statistics provided by Alfa and Touch. Smartphone penetration is also on the rise, with more than 1.8M devices registered across the two networks.

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Russian Bank Keeps Rates Stable after New Appointment

Russia's central bank on Friday left its main interest rate unchanged at 8.25 percent in a closely-watched decision that followed the appointment of a new governor with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The Bank of Russia kept the same rate for the sixth month running despite pressure to act in the face of weakening growth.

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Eurozone Inflation Drops to 1.8% in February

Inflation in the 17-nation eurozone fell sharply in February to 1.8 percent, putting it below the European Central Bank's target rate for the first time in more than two years, official data showed on Friday.

It was the lowest level since September 2010, and confirmed a constant easing trend of consumer prices since last year.

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IMF: Libya Tops 100% Growth in 2012

Libya's economy grew more than 100 percent in 2012 on the back of oil production which had come to a standstill during the country's 2011 revolution, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.

"Economic growth in 2012 exceeded 100 percent, reflecting a strong recovery from its collapse during the revolution" which overthrew Moamer Kadhafi, IMF team leader Ralph Chami said following a February 20-March 7 mission to Libya.

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IMF Calls for 'Urgent Action' to Boost Palestinian Economy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Thursday called for "urgent action" to help revive the Palestinian economy, saying it had been choked by Israeli restrictions and political uncertainty.

"Urgent actions are needed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), by the Government of Israel, and by donors to stabilize the fiscal position and rekindle economic growth over time," the IMF said in a statement.

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EU Leaders Walk Tightrope between Austerity, Growth

European Union leaders meet Thursday, seeking a balance between austerity and growth amid rising fears of social unrest as unemployment soars and Europe's economy remains stuck in the doldrums.

The stakes are high. A brash anti-austerity party won a stunning 25 percent of the vote in last month's Italian elections, a warning for austerity hardliners such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel who faces polls later in the year.

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Smart Card Maker Gemalto Reports Record 2012 Sales

The world's leading manufacturer of smart cards, Gemalto, posted on Thursday a 25-percent jump in 2012 net profit on record sales, and forecast double-digit growth for this year built on growth in the international mobile telephone and security markets.

Gemalto's net profit climbed to 201 million euros ($260 million) on sales that rose 9.0 percent to a new record of 2.25 billion euros as demand grew for plastic cards equipped with embedded computer chips.

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Swiss Central Bank Vows to Keep Defending Forex Floor

The Swiss central bank pledged Thursday to defend the franc's exchange rate floor against the euro, while maintaining its record low interest rates.

The Swiss National Bank, which fixed a minimum exchange rate of 1.20 Swiss francs to the euro in September 2011, said it would "enforce this minimum rate with the utmost determination."

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India Bank Chief Warns of 'Stubborn' Inflation

India's central bank chief has said "stubborn" inflation remains a major obstacle to growth in India, dimming expectations of an interest rate cut when policymakers meet next week.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) slashed the main interest rate in January for the first time in nine months after a fall in inflation and calls from the government and business leaders for lower borrowing costs.

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