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Tunisia in Talks with IMF for $1.78 bn Standby Loan

Tunisia is nearing agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.78 billion standby loan to protect the economy from external shocks, the IMF said Monday.

Negotiations for the Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement are at an "advanced stage," the IMF's mission chief to Tunisia, Amine Mati, said following meetings last month with Tunisian authorities.

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IMF Says Spain Bank Cleanup at 'Advanced Stage'

The International Monetary Fund said Monday that Spain's reforms under its financial-sector support program are close to being complete and that the cleanup of its weakest banks is well-advanced.

"The program remains on track: the clean-up of undercapitalized banks has reached an advanced stage, and key reforms of Spain's financial sector framework have been either adopted or designed," the IMF said.

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Swiss Bank Julius Baer Sees Profits Jump 15% in 2012

Swiss private bank Julius Baer on Monday posted a 15-percent hike in its 2012 net profit, beating analyst expectations amid healthy cash inflows as global financial markets began bouncing back.

Net profit at the bank, which specializes in wealth management, jumped to 298 million Swiss francs ($328 million, 240 million euros) last year, while its assets under management swelled 11 percent to 189 billion Swiss francs, it said in a statement.

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Abu Dhabi's Etihad Posts Triple Profits

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways says net profit tripled last year as the fast-growing carrier added routes and code-share arrangements in its expanding rivalries with other premium Gulf airlines.

Government-owned Etihad said on Monday that 2012 net profit jumped to $42 million, compared to $14 million in 2011. Revenue rose 17 percent to $4.8 billion.

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Osborne: British Banks Face Break-Up if Fail to Ring-Fence

Britain's biggest banks will face being broken up if they fail to ring-fence their retail and investment arms, under draft legislation set to be announced by finance minister George Osborne on Monday.

The new law will empower the government and a new banking watchdog to "electrify the ring-fence" if banks refuse to separate high-risk operations from savers' deposits.

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Japan Bookings to China Still Falling Amid Island Row

Bookings on Japanese package tours to China for February and March are down around 80 percent, tourism industry data showed Monday, as a months-old territorial row dragged on relations.

Tours to China, booked through Japan's seven biggest travel agencies, fell by 80.3 percent year-on-year for February and by 77.2 percent for March, the Japan Association of Travel Agents said.

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Barclays Boss Gives up 2012 Bonus after Scandal-Hit Year

Barclays bank chief executive Antony Jenkins announced on Friday that he would give up his 2012 bonus after a "very difficult year" at the lender, which has been plagued by the Libor rate-rigging scandal.

The announcement followed media reports that the crisis-hit lender was preparing to pay Jenkins a bonus worth at least £1.0 million ($1.6 million, 1.2 million euros) for last year.

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NATO Chief Urges Europe not to Cut Defense Budgets

NATO's secretary general is urging cash-strapped European nations not to use the alliance's drawdown of forces in Afghanistan as an excuse to cut defense spending.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a gathering of the world's top diplomats and defense officials Saturday that "we must build on what we have gained in operations such as Afghanistan — not cash in what some may perceive as the post-ISAF dividend."

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U.S. Stocks Flirt with New Records, Five Years after Crash

U.S. markets pushed tantalizingly close to new records this week, a stunning rebound after the steep crash of 2008 wiped trillions of dollars of wealth from Americans' pocketbooks and retirement accounts.

The thrust past 14,000 by the Dow Jones Industrial Average Friday, the first time that level has been seen since October 17, 2007, underscored the spectacular recovery U.S. stocks have made despite the economy's slow growth.

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U.S. Gains 157K Jobs; Jobless Rate Rises to 7.9 pct.

U.S. employers added 157,000 jobs in January, and hiring was much stronger at the end of 2012 than previously thought, providing reassurance that the job market held steady even as economic growth stalled.

The Labor Department report Friday showed a jump in hiring in the final two months of last year, just when the economy was sputtering and facing the threat of deep government spending cuts and tax increases from the fiscal cliff. The department revised up the estimated job gains for November from 161,000 to 247,000 and for December from 155,000 to 196,000.

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