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By Marc Jones LONDON (Reuters) - A dizzying fall in copper to a near four-year low compounded increasing concern in China over its economic slowdown on Wednesday to send a wave of unease sweeping through world markets. World shares fell for fourth day, but it was copper, often seen as a proxy for China's fortunes, that grabbed the headlines as Shanghai futures fell by their 5 percent daily limit again and benchmark prices of the metal slumped to their lowest since 2010. "Markets are watching what is happening in copper, with awe and trepidation," said Societe Generale head of currency strategy Kit Juckes. And partly it is just that the commodity bubble burst last year and not everyone noticed." Copper's plunge comes in the wake of China's first domestic bond default which has sparked concerns about the potential unraveling of loan deals where the industrial metal has been used as collateral.
South Africa's current account deficit narrowed more than expected in the final quarter of 2013 as exports outpaced imports to reduce the shortfall on the trade account in Africa's biggest economy. In its latest Quarterly Bulletin released on Wednesday, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) said the current account deficit stood at 5.1 percent of gross domestic product, its lowest since the start of 2012, when the shortfall was 3.9 percent.
By Elizabeth Piper MOSCOW (Reuters) - Surrounded by faithful aides, President Vladimir Putin hears no opposition to his plans in Crimea, allowing him to drive Russia's bid to reclaim Ukraine's southern region guided by little more than his "inner voice". That the seizure of Crimea, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, could tip a faltering economy into recession, spark visa bans and asset freezes on top officials and isolate Russia in ways not seen since Soviet times have not been considerations. For the time being, Putin can rely on a system of control he has honed and cultivated since he first came to power 14 years ago. But the Crimea move has led to mutterings of discontent, mostly among the financial and economic ministries, who were cut out of the meeting when it was decided to act over a region Putin felt might be lost forever if Kiev's new leaders were successful in taking Ukraine into the European Union.
By Jonathan Kaminsky OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Five detainees on hunger strike at an immigration holding center in Washington state were placed under medical observation on Tuesday, a federal agency said, while advocates insisted it was a divide-and-conquer tactic to undermine their protest. Now in its fifth day, the hunger strike was called by detainees demanding an end to U.S. deportations and better conditions at the privately run Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. ...
PHOENIX (AP) — An ex-convict who police say killed two people before engaging in a gunbattle with authorities on a Phoenix-area freeway was paroled from a Colorado prison in October after serving 4 ½ years of a roughly six-year sentence on charges that included punching a sheriff's deputy in the face.
By Steve Holland NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama took on a daunting task on Tuesday: shopping for clothes for his wife and daughters during a brief stop at a Gap store while raising money for Democrats in New York. Obama was in New York to attend fundraisers aimed at building up campaign war chests for this year's midterm congressional elections, which he said are key to how much of his agenda he can get done in the rest of his time in office.
By Alexandra Ulmer and Anthony Esposito VALPARAISO/SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Michelle Bachelet took over the presidency of Chile in a ceremony loaded with symbolism on Tuesday, promising to stick to her tax-and-spend campaign pledges to fight social inequality despite a sharp economic slowdown. Bachelet accepted the presidential sash from Senate head Isabel Allende, the daughter of late socialist President Salvador Allende, whose overthrow in 1973 ushered in the 17-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. ...