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BRUSSELS, Feb 15 (Reuters) European finance ministers will agree on Tuesday on some of the ideas contained in a Franco-German competitiveness pact for the euro zone, a draft document showed, in what could help seal a late-March deal on tackling the debt crisis. Draft conclusions of the ministers' meeting, obtained by Reuters, showed they would support proposals from the European Commission that were put forward before the Feb. 4 proposals from Berlin and Paris and which are very similar. The European Union is working to overhaul its budget rules, improve economic policy coordination, strengthen its rescue fund and create a new, permanent crisis resolution mechanism to draw a line under the one-year-old sovereign debt crisis. Such a comprehensive package of measures is to be agreed by EU leaders on March 24-25. Germany, whose support as Europe's largest economy is essential to any deal, and France, want any such comprehensive package to include steps to boost the competitiveness of euro zone countries and ensure their public finances are sustainable. They include limits on debt levels written into national laws, higher retirement ages based on demographics, the abolition of index-linked wage increases, unified bank crisis-resolution mechanisms, measures to boost workforce mobility and a common corporate tax base.


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TheWall Street Journal" hina's consumer prices rose 4.9% in January from a year earlier, prompting worries that the world's second-largest economy is falling behind in the fight against inflation, as are other countries in Asia. While the increase in the consumer price index, which was faster than December's 4.6%, doesn't sound especially high by U.S. standardslet alone the sky-high levels of Latin America in the 1980sChinese leaders are extraordinarily sensitive to inflation, which has long been associated with political unrest.

The headline numbers also underplay the impact on many ordinary Chinese. The foods component, for instance, jumped 10.3%, and has averaged more than 10% for the past four months. Hundreds of millions of Chinese still live at or just above poverty levels, and so are especially sensitive to food increases. The numbers also don't capture adequately the rise in assets, such as housing prices. Lu Feng, director of Peking University's Macroeconomic Research Center, said that China's extraordinary gains in manufacturing productivity hold down the cost of manufactured goods, which is reflected in the consumer price index. Inflation is caused by too much money in the system chasing too few goods, he said, and that excessive money largely goes to asset markets, so it boosts asset prices and can even result in asset bubbles, including possible bubbles in such items as housing, antiques and ancient paintings.

China's National Bureau of Statistics reworked the way it calculates the CPI, in part by decreasing slightly the weighting of food and increasing the weighting of housing items. The National Bureau of Statistics said that using the old measure the inflation rate in January would have been slightly lower. But a Wall Street Journal calculation using an estimate of the old weighting shows it may have produced an inflation reading of 5.1%higher than the government reported.

China has raised interest rates three times since October, most recently last week, but benchmark lending rates, at around 6%, are still barely above the rate of inflation. Earlier this month, Chinese Premier Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao tried to reassure the public that the government would tame inflation by attacking China's rising food costs. We are confident that we have the ability to promote the stable development of agricultural products, to ensure the effective supply of agricultural products, especially grain, and to maintain the overall basic stability of goods prices, he told China's State Council, the government's highest administrative body, in remarks reported on television.

Most major economies would boost interest rates to fight inflation, but China tends to keep rates low and depend instead on industrial policy measures, including, in this case, incentives to boost farm production. It's unclear whether such measures can work rapidly enough to tamp down inflationary pressure. Rising inflation has become a problem across fast-growing Asia, which has seen a huge increase in investment from overseas and which relied on big stimulus measures to fight the effects of the global financial crisis between 2008 and 2010. Anoop Singh, the International Monetary Fund's Asia chief, said there are signs inflation is becoming a structural issue, reflecting underlying demand, not just a temporary rise in food or commodity prices. He urged Asian nations to boost the value of their exchange rates, which would reduce the value of imports, as a way to fight price increases.

China is wary, though, of letting its currency appreciate more rapidly because it fears that would harm its thriving export industry. The value of the yuan has risen just 3.5% since June 2010 when China said it would let the currency float somewhat. Finance ministers and central bankers of the Group-of-20 nations meeting in Paris on Friday and Saturday are bound to press China on its currency policy. In China, food prices typically rise prior to the Lunar New Year holiday, which ended on Feb. 8, but January's price increase was intensified by adverse weather, including drought conditions. Non-food price rises also accelerated to 2.6% from 2.1% last year, indicating that inflation pressures are spreading through the economy. All the Chinese price statistics are calculated compared to year-ago levels.

Drought conditions are adding to rising food costs. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization issued a warning recently that at least five of China's major wheat growing provinces, which account for two-thirds of China's wheat production, are facing a severe drought. In another sign of burgeoning economic activity, China's imports rose 51% in January, nearly twice as fast as it did a month earlier. Exports also rose sharply, by 38%. That narrowed China's trade surplus to $6.45 billion in January, down from $13.1 billion in December, according to customs data. Economists cautioned that China's trade figures are typically very volatile at the start of the year, due to distortions caused by the variable timing of the Lunar New Year holiday, which this year fell in the first week of February.

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NEW YORK, Feb 15 (IFR) Reuters News reports the CDU in Germany is playing hardball over the EFSF and proposed ESM back up/stability funds." CSU PAPER ON EURO REFORM REJECTS ANY PURCHASE OF BONDS BY ECB OR EFSF/ESM RESCUE FUNDS; REJECTS OFFERING VULNERABLE EURO COUNTRIES FUNDS TO BUY BACK THEIR OWN BONDS; ALL AID FROM EURO RESCUE FUND MUST BE LIMITED TO 3 YEARS." Well as they say them's are fighting words. With Europe's ability to withstand the present fiscal crises reliant upon German support and funding this is very bad for the prospects of an amicable solution to the debt crisis in march as originally promised by Fin Min Schaeuble. They may not want to admit it but things brings up the ugly question of sustainability of the Euro pact as it stands despite the fact that Merkel and Sarkozy at Davos swore on a stack of bibles that the Euro is the linchpin of the European Union. How can that be if the single most important country in the union insists on going its own way?

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19:33 15Feb11 RTRS-Obama says wants to eliminate special corporate tax breaks WASHINGTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for eliminating special tax breaks for U.S. corporations. It's going to be difficult to achieve serious corporate tax reform if the formula is 'lower our tax rates and let us keep all our tax loopholes, Obama told a White House news conference.

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BERLIN, Feb 15 (Reuters) - German inflation will not rise above 2 percent in the medium-term and the European Central Bank should not hike interest rates this year, an economic advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel's government told Reuters. The core inflation rate in the euro zone is still about one percent so it makes absolutely no sense to be scared about inflation, Peter Bofinger said in an interview on Tuesday. The ECB should try to maintain its expansionary stance, so keep interest rates around one percent. Bofinger is one of the five wise men who formally advise the government on the economy.

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BEIJING, Feb 15 (Reuters) China's inflation will stay high in the first half of this year, especially in the first quarter, before easing in the second half to bottom in the fourth quarter, Yao Jingyuan, chief economist of the National Statistics Bureau, said. Yao, who was quoted on state radio on Tuesday, said the expected easing in price pressures would be a result of the government's recent anti-inflation measures. Chinese data showed on Tuesday that inflation in January was unexpectedly tame, running at an annual pace of 4.9 percent

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FRANKFURT, Feb 15 (Reuters) It is too early to make any firm conclusions about how commodity price rises will impact euro zone inflation, European Central Bank Vice-President Vitor Constancio was quoted as saying on Tuesday. Constancio said the ECB was unsure how commodity prices will evolve. We don't know if we are looking at a hump in commodity prices or not, Constancio said in an interview with newsagency Market News International. We have to wait and see and that's what we have said. Of course this a matter of some concern, as we have underlined, but it's still soon to make definite conclusions from it. What is important for us is to avoid absolutely any second-round effects. Constancio also said the ECB was continuing to look at how to deal with banks that remain locked out of money markets and dependent on ECB funding. MNI said Constancio reported conceptual progress but that the ECB had made no decisions yet.

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MILAN, Feb 15 (Reuters) A successor to Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the European Central Bank (ECB) needs to be decided on quickly to avoid instability, Luxembourg Finance Minister Luc Frieden said in newspaper comments on Tuesday. He told Italy's La Stampa daily that Bundesbank President Axel Weber had been a good candidate to be ECB president before he dropped out last week. Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi was impressive and intelligent, he said in an interview. There is a need to decide as soon as possible. Trichet leaves in October. A delay risks generating instability, Frieden said. Draghi's time in the private sector with the Goldman Sachs Group Inc is not a problem and having worked in the private sector can be a big advantage, he said. Draghi can have a chance of becoming ECB president if he is a candidate, Frieden said. I have known Draghi for some time. I have always found him impressive and intelligent Don't ask me, however, now, if I will vote for him. First I have to evaluate the other names as well, he said. European Union leaders are expected to select a new ECB president around the middle of the year. Draghi is among front-runners for the job. Frieden also told the newspaper that work on new euro zone fiscal governance rules was going too slowly. Once there is political consensus the details can be completed by experts in two or three days, he said


Feb 15 A hypothetical scenario of the euro weakening to reach parity with the US dollar would on average be positive for euro issuers' profits, Fitch Ratings says. However, there would be a significant variation in outcomes and only a minority of rated issuers in Europe would see a meaningful boost.

This is one of the key conclusions of a newly-published report which examines the impact of a weakening euro, based on a sample of 263 Fitch-rated European corporates. The report, entitled 'Scenario: Euro Dollar Parity Picking Winners (and Losers) in EMEA', discusses the impact of the scenario at both an industry and company level and is available using the link above or at www.fitchratings.com.

One of the key insights from this exercise was what it did not reveal, rather than what it did, says Alex Griffiths, Head of International Research for EMEA Corporates. In general, companies are used to managing currency movements. Based on our analysis there are only a few sectors mainly export-oriented with high euro costs where such movements would be likely to result in meaningful movements in profit. This was essentially a hunt for less obvious exposures and we didn't find many.

The key factor limiting the impact of currency movements is the globalisation of most of the businesses large enough to issue in the capital markets, and the internationalisation of those markets. For example, car companies with European-based manufacturing capacity, and with strong export businesses, such as Volkswagen and Daimler, would receive a boost from a falling euro, but this would be offset to an extent by increasing prices in euro terms of raw material inputs, including electronics, which trade on global markets and are often priced in dollars.


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