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EU Finance Ministers Seek Progress on 'Banking Union'

EU finance ministers will try Tuesday to take the next step toward "Banking Union," the new common rules meant to ensure banks help the economy, not destroy it through reckless risk-taking.

The aim appears simple but putting the system in place is politically fraught given the huge additional powers Brussels could acquire.

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Chinese Investors Look to Mine Bitcoin Volatility

Chinese speculators have seen Bitcoin values plunge, soar and plunge again within days, but say the virtual currency's extreme volatility is a profit opportunity despite the white-knuckle ride.

China is the world's biggest market for trading Bitcoins, but around $5 billion was wiped off the value of the currency's global stock within an hour of an announcement from Beijing's central bank in early December, banning financial institutions from dealing in it.

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EU Finance Ministers under Pressure on Next Step in Bank Regulation

EU finance ministers face tough talks Tuesday on the next key step to a "Banking Union," the new regulatory system to ensure banks avoid the risky excesses which brought Europe to its knees.

The 28 are trying to reconcile deep differences over a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) meant to stabilize, and if necessary, close a failing bank before it does too much damage.

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France's Central Bank Raises Growth Forecast

France should post economic growth of 0.5 percent in the last quarter of this year, the central bank said Monday, citing a "clear" rise in manufacturing and deliveries in most sectors.

The Bank of France had initially predicted 0.4 percent growth during this period.

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Philippines Bans Worker Deployment to Yemen

The Philippines Monday banned its citizens from taking up new jobs in Yemen, following a militant attack which killed dozens including seven Filipino medical workers.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement the government was also offering to repatriate an estimated 1,000 other citizens already employed there as medical workers or construction laborers.

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IMF Chief Urges Myanmar to Focus on Poverty Reduction

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde urged Myanmar -- which is enjoying an economic boom after decades of international isolation under the junta -- to urgently prioritize tackling widespread poverty.

"As Myanmar opens up and expands, it needs the structural foundations of a modern economy. This is an urgent priority," she said in a speech to students at the Yangon Institute of Economics.

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Trade Pact Deadline in Doubt as Talks Start in Singapore

Trade ministers from the United States and 11 other countries opened talks Saturday in an attempt to meet a U.S. deadline to forge a trans-Pacific trade pact before the end of the year.

However, analysts said an agreement on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was unlikely to be reached during the four-day meeting, and activists slammed the U.S. for its "manipulative" tactics in a bid to get a deal done.

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EU Says Trade Deal Saved the WTO from 'Irrelevance'

EU Trade Commissioner Karl De Gucht said Saturday a hard-won agreement on international commerce had saved the World Trade Organization from "the darkness of irrelevance".

"I am relieved because today marks the return of the WTO from the darkness of multilateral irrelevance into the light of multilateral action and success," he said in a statement.

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No Fear of 'Mandela Crash' for Africa's Largest Economy

Economists slapped down speculation that Nelson Mandela's death could prompt an economic and financial slump in South Africa, but warned the gains he inspired remain fragile.

Analysts pointed to a strong showing by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on Friday and the rand despite news of his death, dismissing doomsayers who predicted the 95-year-old's demise would spark a crisis.

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Greek Lawmakers to Approve Tentative Growth Budget

Greece's parliament prepared Saturday to approve next year's budget, which forecasts an end to the recession that has gripped the country since 2008.

The coalition government has a four-seat majority in parliament, and the budget is expected to pass, notably since more controversial legislation covering property issues will be debated separately next week.

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