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.
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.
A 25-point plan to insulate Mexico against the global financial woes – and especially the recession in the US – was unveiled by President Felipe Calderón. In a briefing Wednesday , he said his government will freeze the price of gasoline, increase unemployment benefits, lower electricity rates for industries, and add 250,000 temporary jobs for such projects as road, seaport, and school repairs and the restoration of historic sites.
For giving unauthorized news briefings, Pakistan's national security adviser was fired Wednesday night. Retired Gen. Mahmood Ali Durrani already was controversial because, as a former ambassador to the US, he was seen as too pro-American. He also was a leading proponent of closer relations with India at a time when tensions between the two nuclear rivals are running high over the late-November siege of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Durrani was among the first officials to concede that the lone surviving terrorist in that siege is, as India has maintained, a Pakistani national.
Bowing to public pressure, Kenya's president ordered an official review of the law he signed last week giving the state broad new powers over broadcasters.Mwai Kibaki directed his government to consider recommendations by the news media to amend the law. News organizations threatened to appeal the measure, which they called "draconian," through the courts. Among other provisions, it allows the government to control the production and content of news programming.
In an about-face, Venezuela's government and state-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp. announced the resumption of oil donations for poor US families. The flow of free home-heating fuel had been suspended Monday, with Citgo executives citing the falling price of crude on world markets and a resulting need to reevaluate all government social programs. But on Wednesday, they said a way had been found to continue making the donations, even though they were "a sacrifice." The oil had been provided to 220,000 households in 23 states, plus members of 65 Native American tribes.