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China, Japan Unveil Deals to Tighten Finance Ties

Chinese and Japanese leaders have unveiled initiatives to tighten financial links between East Asia's economic giants and sometime rivals — measures that could expand use of China's tightly controlled currency abroad.

During a visit to Beijing by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, the two governments said in a surprise announcement Sunday they will encourage use of their own currencies in bilateral trade, which now is conducted mostly in U.S. dollars.

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Asia Stocks Mixed after Weak U.S. Economy Indicators

Asian stock markets are mixed in holiday-thinned trading Monday after weak U.S. indicators dulled optimism about prospects for the world's biggest economy.

Several markets are closed including Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. Oil traders are also on holiday. Wall Street will be closed Monday because Christmas fell on a Sunday this year.

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U.S. Congress Passes Tax Deal in Rare Win for Obama

Republican leaders bowed to intense pressure Friday and voted to extend a payroll tax holiday for 160 million Americans, handing victory to President Barack Obama after a tense showdown.

The deal, which finally sailed unopposed through the Senate and the House of Representatives two days before Christmas, allows Obama to end the year on a triumphant note after being thwarted by Republicans for months.

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OPEC to Accommodate Increased Libyan Output

There is a "gentlemen's agreement" between OPEC members to accommodate increasing output from Libya, the North African country's oil minister said Saturday.

The comments by Abdul-Rahman bin Yazzah indicate that while there is no formal deal among members of the 12-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut output, the producer group is willing to take the step as Libya's production ramps up to pre-civil war levels of 1.6 million barrels per day.

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Japan Approves $1.16-Trillion Draft Budget

Japan's cabinet approved Saturday a 90.334 trillion yen ($1.16 trillion) budget for the 2012 fiscal year, with a record 49 percent financed by bonds even as the country struggles to rein in its massive public debt.

Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Japan had reached its "limit" in relying on debt and said he was aware the global community was watching him in light of the serious debt woes in Europe.

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Oil Prices Steady Before Festive Break

New York oil prices topped the $100 level on Friday but slipped back below the threshold to end little-changed ahead of the Christmas holiday.

There was little real news to drive markets, but analysts said that optimism in the markets and traders' pre-holiday short-covering generally helped keep a floor on prices.

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Dollar Flat in Holiday-Thinned Trade

The dollar was flat against the euro on Friday in holiday-thinned trade, as traders sought to cover positions ahead of the three-day U.S. weekend.

Investors continued to show more taste for the single currency after Italy accepted fresh austerity measures and following positive U.S. jobs data, traders said.

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Eurozone Banks Park Huge Amount of Funds at ECB

Eurozone banks deposited the biggest amount of overnight funds at the ECB for more than a year on Thursday, official data showed Friday in a fresh sign of banks' wariness of lending to each other.

Banks put 347 billion euros ($453 billion) on deposit for 24 hours at the European Central Bank, the highest amount since June 2010.

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Oil Rises to Near $100 Amid Improving U.S. Economy

Oil prices closed in on $100 a barrel Friday in Asia amid expectations an improving U.S. economy will boost demand for crude.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 23 cents to $99.76 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 86 cents to finish at $99.53 on Thursday.

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European Markets Enjoy Christmas Bounce

European stocks rose on Friday, the last trading day before the Christmas break, as traders temporarily put aside the debt crisis worries that have roiled markets for most of 2011.

Amid thin trading, investors continued to buy up stocks and the single currency after Italy accepted fresh austerity measures and positive U.S. jobs data, traders said.

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