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France has won backing from its European partners to slightly slow the reduction of its public deficit, but it will respect its EU-imposed deficit targets, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said on Thursday. The French government aims to bring the deficit in line with an EU limit of 3 percent of national income next year, a target most economists consider out of reach. The government has fallen behind on deficit reduction after the hole in the public finances came to 4.3 percent last year, missing its target of 4.1 percent. Sapin said he had not sought backing from Brussels for extra time to cut the deficit, but rather had discussed and "partly" won support for changing the speed at which the deficit is reduced.
By Aileen Wang and Adam Rose BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economy is doing better than official data suggests, the Commerce Ministry said a day after figures showed growth at an 18-month low, adding that targets for exports and imports this year should be met despite some caution over the trade outlook. Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said a rise in export deliveries, a customs department poll of exporters and growth in trade in individual provinces all showed that the economy was in good shape.
(Reuters) - Private equity firms Bain Capital and Carlyle Group are among first round bidders for Standard Chartered's Hong Kong consumer finance unit, a business valued at up to $700 million (415 million pounds), people familiar with the matter said. Orix Corp , one of Japan's largest financial services conglomerates, and some Chinese non-bank finance companies also placed bids this week, they added. The sale of PrimeCredit is expected to be the first of several sales of non-core businesses by Standard Chartered as it seeks to boost shareholder returns and braces for slower profit growth after a decade of earnings expansion that ended in 2013. A Standard Chartered spokesman said the bank is exploring strategic options for the consumer finance business but no formal decision has been made.
(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve indicated to Citigroup Inc that the bank would get more time to fix certain "stress test" planning problems before rejecting its capital plan last month, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people close to the company. The Fed had agreed to give Citigroup a 2015 deadline to address a series of shortcomings identified by the regulator in the wake of the 2013 test, the report said.
By Pedro Fonseca RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities unveiled an infrastructure budget of 24.1 billion reais (6.39 billion pounds) for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, 25 percent more than planned, as they try to reassure the world they can deliver facilities on time. The budget covers 27 projects in urban development and public transport, including 8 billion reais for a newly added fourth metro line for Rio, Brazil's congested second largest city, where getting around town is an ordeal. Other initially envisaged projects were excluded, such as the upgrade to Rio's international airport Galeao, which has been handed to private operators. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said the higher budget was due to the inclusion of new projects and inflation, which has blown up costs by 30 percent since Rio won hosting rights for the event in 2009.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday wades into Argentina's multi-billion dollar legal fight with bond investors who turned down two debt restructuring offers after the country's 2002 default. The relatively narrow case that the nine justices are due to hear concerns whether the investors can force banks in New York with which Argentina does business to disclose information about the country's non-U.S. assets as the investors seek repayment. A bigger case, in which Argentina is challenging a court judgment ordering it to pay $1.33 billion (790.25 million pounds) to the so-called "holdout" bond investors or face a potential default if it refuses to do so, waits in the wings. Argentina has been battling for a decade with the bondholders led by hedge funds NML Capital Ltd, a unit of billionaire Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp, and Aurelius Capital Management.
A Chinese-American venture capitalist known for his controversial blogs has been released on bail after nearly eight months in detention because of a "serious illness", Beijing police said amid a crackdown on online dissent. Charles Xue, also known as Xue Manzi, was detained in August on a charge of visiting prostitutes, an accusation that activists said stemmed from China's efforts to rein in social media. China's crackdown on online "rumour-mongering" is widely seen as a tool to halt criticism of the ruling Communist Party and has chilled political discourse, with high-profile bloggers saying they have reined in sensitive posts for fear of detention. State television showed Xue on television on Wednesday night confessing to his crime, saying he was extremely sorry to his wife and children.
(Reuters) - Yahoo Inc's Chief Executive Marissa Mayer is working on a plan to persuade Apple Inc to ditch Google as its default search engine in favour of Yahoo, technology news site Re/code reported, citing sources within Yahoo. Mayer's effort is in advanced stages, with a detailed pitch already prepared for Apple executives, the website said.
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — The well-armed, Moscow-backed insurgency sowing chaos in eastern Ukraine scored a new victory Wednesday, seizing armored vehicles and weapons from underequipped government forces, then rolling through two cities to a hero's welcome.
By Narae Kim JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Several people appear to have survived in an air pocket of a capsized South Korean ferry, the father of one of the school children aboard the boat told a Reuters reporter accompanying families out to the scene of the disaster on Thursday. About 290 people are still missing out of 450 passengers on the Sewol ferry, which capsized in still-mysterious circumstances off the Korean peninsula on Wednesday in what could be the country's worst maritime accident in 20 years. Coastguard and navy divers resumed searching on Thursday after the ferry capsized in sight of land on a trip from the port city of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the peninsula. One parent, Park Yung-suk, told Reuters she had seen the body of her teenage daughter's teacher brought ashore earlier in the morning.
By David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday urged the Indian government that emerges from ongoing elections to follow economic policies that encourage investment, saying Washington would like to see bilateral trade grow to $500 billion (297.5 billion pounds) a year. Nisha Biswal, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said future economic growth in South Asia hinged on India as the region's growth engine. However, Biswal said that while Indian leaders had targeted $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over five years to close gaps preventing growth in manufacturing, policies still inhibited foreign investment. She said India ranked a poor 134 out of 189 countries as a place to invest and start a business.
Karim Wade, son of Senegal's ex-president, will go on trial in two months to face corruption charges, a year after he was accused of illegally amassing a fortune of $1.4 billion (833 million pounds) during his father's rule, a government official said. The decision ends hopes that Wade, who was the most powerful figure in his father Abdoulaye Wade's 2000-2012 government, could see the case thrown out of the Court for Illegal Enrichment that handles corruption issues. "The court has taken the decision for Karim Wade to face trial in two months from now," Soro Diop, an adviser to the justice ministry, told Reuters.
By Stephanie Nebehay and Christian Lowe GENEVA/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from East and West will try to defuse the Ukraine crisis on Thursday in Geneva, once frequently the scene of Cold War negotiations, but will risk being upstaged by Russian President Vladimir Putin. With Russian troops massed on the border with Ukraine, prospects of significant progress at the four-way talks appear slim. By contrast, what Putin says during his annual "hotline" session with the Russian people may have far greater influence on events in Ukraine's rebellious east. Thursday's talks will bring the ministers of Russia, Ukraine and the United States together with the European Union's foreign policy chief to discuss a crisis in which Kiev is struggling to reassert its authority in eastern towns largely controlled by armed pro-Russian separatists.