AFP World Economic News Summary

The top world economic stories on Friday:


WASHINGTON: The United States was braced for $85 billion in budget cuts due to hit in a self-inflicted wound brought on by deep ideological antipathy between President Barack Obama and Republicans.


BRUSSELS: Official data painted a far from encouraging picture of the European economy, with unemployment running at record and "unacceptable" highs in the eurozone while inflation fell sharply, highlighting the weakness of consumer demand.


BUDAPEST: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban on named a close ally, controversial Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy, as the new head of the country's central bank (MNB) in a move that had investors worried of resurging inflation and renewed instability.


BEIJING: Manufacturing activity in China expanded at its slowest rate in five months in February, official data showed, but maintained the economic recovery despite the Chinese New Year holiday.


TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plan to kickstart the economy and fuel inflation with big spending got a boost with data indicating consumers beginning to loosen their purse-strings.


MILAN: Italy's economy shrank by 2.4 percent last year and public debt rose to 127 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 120.8 percent in 2011, official data showed.


STOCKHOLM: Swedish economic growth plunged last year to just 0.8 percent but a flat result in the fourth quarter cheered analysts who were expecting a contraction.


NEW YORK: US mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac has posted an $11 billion annual profit for 2012, compared to a loss of $5.3 billion a year earlier.


LONDON: Britain's state-rescued Lloyds bank posted a 2012 net loss of £1.43 billion, rocked by huge compensation for insurance mis-selling, but awarded its boss and staff a large round of bonuses.


FRANKFURT: German media giant Bertelsmann said it has agreed to buy out the US investment fund KKR in their jointly-owned music rights management company BMG for an undisclosed sum.