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Feb. 16, 2013 at 2:09 PM   |   Comments

G20 pledges peace on currency front

MOSCOW, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- A Group of 20 nations meeting in Moscow concluded Saturday with a pledge to focus monetary policy on domestic growth to steer away from a currency war.

The group of major economic countries issued a statement that said they would each try to "minimize" any impact on currency fluctuations their domestic monetary policies might cause.

Specifically, nations fear that a trading partner or a competitor nation would take steps to devalue its currency, which would make that country's exports cheaper and make imports more expensive.

Currency devaluations, as such, decrease the standard of living in the country where that occurs, but it also gives their exporters an instant price advantage abroad.

Finance leaders at the two-day G20 meeting in Moscow had offered mixed reactions to Japan's recent yen devaluation, pushed by Japan's new government.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has orchestrated several rounds of quantitative easing in the United States, said, "We would welcome similar approaches by other countries," arguing that a stronger U.S. economy, albeit at the price of minor currency devaluations, was good for the global economy, as well.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Bernanke endorsed a statement by International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde that Japan's strategy was "sound policy."

Japan's recent stimulus measures have pared back the value of the yen by 15 percent since the first of the year. While that has made Japanese exports relatively cheaper abroad, it has also made it more expensive for people in Japan to buy imported products, which is why the devaluations are not universally endorsed.

Lagarde did say a blatant step towards currency devaluation would be frowned upon. And Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble was critical of the use of quantitative easing as a means of lowering the government's deficit. Governments, instead, should use fiscal discipline to manage their deficits, he said.

The G20 group also pledged to "develop credible medium-term fiscal strategies," and admitted that they had prolonged the recovery through policy uncertainty.

Major threats to the global economy, most notably the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, had "receded," the group said.

The group also said, "We agree that the weak global performance derives from policy uncertainty, private deleveraging, fiscal drag and impaired credit intermediation."


SEC investigating Heinz takeover trading

NEW YORK, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating "highly suspicious" trading in the takeover of H.J. Heinz Co., an SEC official said.

The agency said Friday it was moving to freeze a Swiss bank account used for trading just before the announcement that investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway company and 3G agreed to buy Heinz in a deal reported to be worth $28 billion, The Hill reported.

A court in Manhattan granted the request for the freeze.

"Irregular and highly suspicious options trading immediately in front of a merger or acquisition announcement is a serious red flag that traders may be improperly acting on confidential nonpublic information," Daniel M. Hawke, chief of the SEC Division of Enforcement's Market Abuse Unit, said in a statement.

Investigators say there had been little activity in the Swiss account for at least six months but options purchases were made that earned a $1.7 million profit shortly before the announcement of the acquisition.

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1 percent of incomes growing in recovery

BERKELEY, Calif., Feb. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. wage growth has showed a sharp discrepancy between the rich and the poor through the economic recovery, an academic economist has found.

A report authored by economist Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley, said incomes for the wealthiest 1 percent in the country grew 11.2 percent during the recovery in data that includes 2011, but not 2012. Incomes for the bottom 99 percent of households dropped 0.4 percent over the same period, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Overall, incomes rose by 1.7 percent, including both groups, the Times said.

"We have ... basically three decades of problems compounded by high unemployment. That high unemployment we know depresses wage growth throughout the wage scale, but more so for the bottom than the middle and the middle than the top," said Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think-tank in Washington.

"The Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s," said Saez.


U.N.: Manufacturing grew 2.2 percent in 2012

VIENNA, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- A United Nations report released in Vienna said the recession in Europe is punishing for Europe, but also for economies in emerging nations.

A report by the U.N. Industrial Development Organization in Vienna said that world manufacturing grew by 2.2 percent in 2012, a sharp drop from the 3.1 percent that was expected as of mid-year.

Manufacturing grew at a rate of 8.7 percent per year in Asia in 2012 and 5.9 percent in Africa, the report said. In nation's with developed economies, manufacturing grew only 0.3 percent in 2012, the report said.

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