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Moody's Affirms Italy's Rating, Negative Outlook

Moody's affirmed Italy's government ratings and negative outlook Friday after the country's president named a prime minister in a bid to an end a two-month political impasse.

The ratings agency said it was maintaining the government's Baa2 ratings and keeping the negative outlook, citing "the elevated risk that the Italian sovereign might lose investor confidence and, ultimately, access to private debt markets as a result of the political stalemate."

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Portugal to Take Two Banks to Court over Swap Deals

Portugal said Friday it will take banking giants JP Morgan and Santander to court to make them renegotiate deals that have left state-run companies paying hefty interest rates.

Treasury Secretary Maria Luis Albuquerque said the government had failed to reach a deal with U.S. bank JP Morgan and Spanish bank Santander's local unit to overhaul so-called "toxic swap" contracts that are weighing down public companies and threatening Portugal's debt-slashing efforts.

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Citigroup Buys ING Custody Services in Eastern Europe

U.S. bank Citigroup announced Friday it was acquiring the eastern Europe custody services business of its Dutch rival ING.

The acquisition covers assets worth 110 billion euros ($143 billion) in seven countries: Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and the Ukraine, according to statements from both banks.

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Japan: China Cancels Top Finance Meet amid Tensions

Japan's finance ministry said Friday that China has cancelled a top annual finance meeting with Japan and South Korea, as diplomatic tensions between Tokyo and Beijing soar.

An official with the ministry told Agence France Presse that "China has informed us that the meeting won't be held" on the sidelines of an Asian Development Bank meeting in Delhi next month.

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China Tells France it Wants more Balanced Trade

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as telling French President Francois Hollande on Friday that Beijing wants more balanced trade with France and is willing to buy more French products.

Hollande was on the second day of a two-day visit to China aimed at rebalancing trade relations between the economic powers.

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Spanish Government in New Bid to Revive Economy

Spain's government, seeking to cut its deficit amidst a double-dip recession, is to unveil new measures Friday aimed at reviving the economy, a day after registering record unemployment.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government is to unveil its latest package of economic reforms at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT), a day after violent protests over news that unemployment in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy had surged past 27 percent in the first quarter of 2013 -- a new record.

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BoJ Holds off Fresh Easing Measures

The Bank of Japan held off announcing any new policy measures Friday as it wrapped up its first meeting since unveiling a huge stimulus package this month aimed at stoking the economy and beating deflation.

In a brief, two-paragraph statement the central bank said its widely expected decision to stand pat was reached by a unanimous vote by its board.

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IMF Says Europe Needs Crucial Reforms to Grow

Europe must implement "crucial reforms" to overcome the eurozone debt crisis, generate economic growth and avoid stagnation, the International Monetary Fund warned Thursday.

IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton, speaking in central London, also praised "important steps" taken by eurozone governments to combat the region's long-running crisis.

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Spanish Unemployment Tops 27%, Protestors Muster

Spain's unemployment rate surged past 27 percent to a new record in the first quarter of 2013, official data showed Thursday as a deep recession ravaged the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.

A record unemployment number was also expected to emerge later Thursday in France, the eurozone's second-biggest economy.

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Germany 'Optimistic' on Growth Outlook

The German government insisted Thursday that Europe's biggest economy could "look to the future with optimism", despite recent disappointing economic data and falling confidence.

"2013 will be a good year," Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said, unveiling a slight upgrade in Berlin's growth forecast for the current year to 0.5 percent from a previous prognosis of 0.4 percent.

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