AFP World Economic News Summary

The top world economic stories on Wednesday:


BRUSSELS: The EU fined Microsoft 561 million euros ($730 million) for failing to provide customers with a choice of Internet browser, as promised, but Brussels ran into criticism it had failed to do its job properly by allowing the US giant to monitor its own commitments.


LONDON: Crude oil prices slid, having earlier rebounded on uncertainty after the death of Hugo Chavez, the president of major Latin American crude producer Venezuela.


LONDON: European stock markets hit multi-year peaks, with Frankfurt and London at their highest levels since the 2008 global financial crisis, as investors were buoyed by resurgent global economic optimism and bumper gains in Asia and the United States.


HONG KONG: Asian markets rallied following a record-breaking performance by shares on Wall Street, with Tokyo and Sydney both hitting multi-year highs.


BRUSSELS: The 17-nation eurozone sank further into recession in the last three months of 2012 as the debt crisis continued to exact a heavy price, official data showed.


SYDNEY: Australia's economy grew 0.6 percent in the three months to December thanks to a pick-up in exports but analysts warned the country's mining boom covered up weakness in other sectors.


GENEVA: Global sales of cars, buses, utility vehicles and trucks are expected to grow three percent this year, down from five percent in 2012, according to a forecast released here.


TOKYO: Tokyo and Washington have agreed on exemptions for the auto industry in a mooted Pacific-wide free trade pact, as Japan readies to announce its entry into negotiations, reports said.


TAIPEI: Taiwan and the United States will resume stalled trade talks next week after Taipei removed a six-year-old ban on some US beef imports, officials said.


TOKYO: Sharp announced a $111 million capital tie-up deal with South Korean rival Samsung, in a rare move for a Japanese firm that underscores the fading fortunes of its electronics giants.