Global business

  • Article by: Wire services
  • Updated: February 4, 2013 - 11:49 PM
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An opponent of government plans to legalize same-sex marriage held a placard protesting the proposed law in Marseille, France, on Saturday.

Photo: CLAUDE PARIS • AP ,

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Moody’s completed the review it started last autumn of six Canadian banks. It downgraded the credit ratings of all of them, citing mounting levels of consumer debt as a result of rising house prices. Toronto-Dominion, previously the only Canadian bank to retain a Triple-A rating, was one of the six.

 

Deutsche Bank reported a $2.9 billion quarterly loss, mostly related to a restructuring effort.

 

Caterpillar, one of the world’s biggest makers of heavy machinery, booked a $580 million write-down. The write-down was due to “accounting misconduct” it uncovered at a Chinese supplier of coal-mining equipment that it had taken over last year. Caterpillar has sacked the senior managers at the Chinese firm who, it says, were responsible for the misdeed.

 

Toyota reclaimed the crown of world’s biggest carmaker, selling 9.7 million vehicles last year. General Motors sold 9.3 million and Volkswagen 9.1 million. Meanwhile, carmakers warned of more pain in Europe. Ford said it would lose $2 billion from its European operations, and Fiat, which has seen sales slump in Italy, its home market, ditched its 2012 dividend to preserve cash. It also is hoping to buy the remaining 41 percent stake in Chrysler that it doesn’t own

 

Aubrey McClendon decided to step down as chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, a big natural-gas producer. One of America’s most colorful energy bosses, McClendon helped found Chesapeake in the 1980s and was an early champion of shale gas. Last year it emerged that he had secured loans against his stakes in the company’s wells. An internal review has so far found no “improper conduct.”

 

Anglo American became the latest mining company to write down its assets. The company disclosed a $4 billion impairment charge on its Minas-Rio iron-ore project in Brazil. Production at the mine has been disrupted by licensing injunctions, delaying the site’s first delivery of iron ore until the end of 2014.

 

Facebook posted a 41 percent rise in quarterly revenue. The figure includes a big jump in sales from mobile advertising, a part of its business that is seen as crucial to its future growth.

 

Political economy

After 13 consecutive quarters of growth, America’s economy contracted by 0.1 percent at an annual rate in the last three months of 2012, according to a first estimate. One of the factors behind the surprising stumble was a 15-percent fall in federal spending. GDP grew by 2.2 percent for the whole year, compared with 1.8 percent in 2011.

 

Britain’s economy also shrank from October to December, by 0.3 percent. Britain has recorded negative growth in four of the past five quarters. The government said it would press on with its austerity plan, though some — notably at the International Monetary Fund — have urged it to ease the pace of cuts.

 

The Reserve Bank of India reduced its main interest rate for the first time in nine months, to 7.75 percent. The move Zwas expected after inflation fell to a three-year low.

 

South Korea launched its first satellite, which will collect climate data. In December North Korea dispatched its own first satellite, which suggested progress toward building a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear bomb.

 

Japan’s defense ministry said its spending would increase by 0.8 percent this year. It is the first increase in Japan’s defense budget in 11 years, and comes amid a territorial spat with China over some uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

 

Dense smog forced the cancellation of some flights at Beijing’s airport as the Chinese new year was about to start. In response the government shut some factories and cleared fleets of government cars from the streets.

 

Tens of thousands of gay-marriage supporters demonstrated in Paris, shortly before the French assembly began discussing a bill to legalize same-sex weddings. The crowds were smaller than those at an anti-gay-marriage protest a few weeks ago, though polls suggest that most people in France support the bill.

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