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France, Spain, Italy Bond Yields Hit Fresh Historic Lows

Borrowing rates in France, Spain and Italy fell to fresh historic lows on Friday in thin holiday trading, as investors eyed possible new anti-deflation measures from the European Central Bank.

The yield on France's 10-year debt hit 0.812 percent, while the Spanish 10-year bond traded at 1.541 percent and the Italian at 1.819 percent -- beating previous records set on Tuesday.

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Brazil's Rousseff Vows to Tackle Graft, Boost Economy

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff kicked off a second term Thursday, vowing to tackle corruption and revamp the economy as her government reels from a series of setbacks.

Brazil's economy, once booming, has barely grown during Rousseff's time in office, and her administration is embroiled in a multimillion-dollar graft scandal at state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

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Euro Dips against Dollar on ECB Stimulus Expectations

The euro edged lower against the dollar in Asia on Friday amid mounting speculation the European Central Bank will start buying sovereign bonds, analysts said.

The euro bought $1.2055 in afternoon Singapore trade -- near two-year lows -- from $1.2097 in New York on Wednesday before the New Year break.

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Oil Prices Up in Thin New Year Trading

Oil prices rose Friday in thin Asian trading during the first session of the New Year, as dealers welcomed a larger-than-expected drop in U.S. crude stockpiles, analysts said.

West Texas Intermediate for February delivery, the U.S. benchmark, rose 56 cents to $53.83 in afternoon trade. Brent crude for February gained 12 cents to $57.45.

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Brazil's Rousseff Begins Second Term under Cloud

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff begins her second term Thursday, aiming to get economic growth back on track, and to rebuild government credibility after a major kickbacks scandal.

Thousands of supporters -- and pockets of detractors -- were due to gather and watch the 67-year-old left-wing former urban guerrilla arrive to receive the seals of office at a ceremony in Brasilia slated for 3:00 pm (1700 GMT).

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Oil Price Hits Fresh Five-Year Low

Benchmark oil contract Brent North Sea crude slid to its lowest level since mid-2009 on Wednesday, having lost about half of its value since the middle of the year.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February hit $55.81 a barrel on the final trading day of the year, the lowest point since May 7, 2009. It later recovered slightly to stand at $56.08, down $1.82 compared with the close on Tuesday.

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Hamas Government Employees Strike Over Expected Job Losses

Hamas civil servants went on strike Wednesday after the Palestinian government said it would rehire thousands of Gaza staff who were laid off when the Islamist movement seized power in 2007. 

Hundreds blocked the entrance to the Gaza City headquarters of the consensus government, a day after it pledged to rehire tens of thousands of workers laid off seven years ago, potentially threatening the livelihood of the 50,000 or so people Hamas hired to replace them.

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ECB Warns against Rise of Populism in Europe

The rise of populist parties across Europe should act as a wake-up call for governments to finally get their economies in order, a top European Central Bank official said Wednesday.

"The rise of populism should be a wake-up call," the ECB's chief economist Peter Praet told the financial daily Boersen-Zeitung in a wide-ranging interview.

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Venezuela Enters Recession, Inflation Tops 63%

Venezuela confirmed Tuesday that it has entered recession, while annual inflation topped 63 percent, exacerbating the outlook for an economy already hit by crippling shortages and crashing oil prices.

The South American oil giant's economy shrank 2.3 percent in the third quarter, after contracting 4.8 percent in the first quarter and 4.9 percent in the second, the central bank said, the first time it has released the country's growth figures this year.

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HSBC: China December Manufacturing Index at 49.6

China's manufacturing activity contracted in December, HSBC's closely watched purchasing managers' index (PMI) showed Wednesday, as the world's second-largest economy is buffeted by domestic headwinds.

The British banking giant's final PMI for the month came in at 49.6, HSBC said in a statement, slightly up from a preliminary reading of 49.5 but still the lowest in seven months.

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