Visiting Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte sought to downplay reports that China has lost its appetite for US debt. With its own economy troubled, the communist giant has committed itself to a $600 billion stimulus plan. But Negroponte said Chinese officials told him they "want to work hard in the year ahead to uphold our mutual commitment to promoting an open ... financial system." China has bought more than $1 trillion in US debt over the past five years, helping to keep interest rates low.Skip to next paragraph
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At a discount, tycoon Li Ka-shing sold $511 million worth of stock Thursday in the Bank of China, raising new concerns about a loss of investor confidence in that nation's financial sector. The sell-off followed a similar move last month by Swiss banking giant UBS, said to be worth $900 million. Royal Bank of Scotland, another major shareholder, said it also was considering the sale of its stake. Earlier this week, Bank of America unloaded $2.8 billion worth of shares in China Construction Bank.
From Japan to Ireland, major corporations were announcing sizable layoffs Thursday as concern over the global economic downturn deepened. Among the job cuts: 8,000 by Japanese electronics giant TDK Corp; 2,140 by Japan Airlines; 2,500 by Beijing-based Lenovo Group, the world's fourth-largest maker of computers; and 1,900 by Dell, the US computer giant at its Limerick, Ireland, assembly plant .
Interest rates were cut another half-point by the Bank of England Thursday to 1.5 percent, the lowest in its 315-year history. The central bank said the move was made because "measures of business and consumer confidence have fallen markedly" as Britain braces for perhaps its bleakest year since the recession of the early 1990s. In all, the Bank of England has lowered the borrowing rate by 3.5 percent since last October.