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China Raises Interest Rates for 6th Time This Year


China has raised its benchmark interest rates for the sixth time this year, amid efforts to curb inflation and cool its red-hot economy. Claudia Blume at VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong has more on this and other stories in our weekly look at business news from the region.

China's central bank increased one-year benchmark deposit rates by 27 basis points, to 4.14 percent. The one-year lending rate was raised by 18 basis points to 7.47 percent.

The bank said the interest rate hike, the sixth this year, was part of government measures aimed at cooling the economy and containing inflation. Inflation reached an 11-year high of 6.9 percent in November. Until now, it has mainly been driven by soaring food prices but is showing signs of being fueled by price rises in the broader economy.

In other news from China, state-owned China Investment Corporation bought a $5 billion stake in U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley. The deal will give the Chinese fund almost ten percent of the shares of Morgan Stanley, which reported losses of more than $9 billion last week.

The Chinese government has made a number of major investments in U.S. financial companies this year. China Investment Corporation bought a $3 billion stake in private equity company Blackstone in May. And in October, China's CITIC Securities purchased a $1 billion stake in U.S. investment bank Bear Stearns.

Australia's corporate watchdog has launched civil action against six former directors of wheat exporter AWB. The civil action of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, ASIC, follows investigations into AWB's illegal payment of $260 million in kickbacks to the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

ASIC chairman Tony D'Aloisio says the defendants breached their duties by allowing AWB to arrange contracts with Iraq under the United Nations oil-for-food program, which contained so-called transportation fees that were passed on to Saddam's regime.

"We say they knew or ought to have known that the contracts included purported transportation fees," he said.

U.S. casino operator MGM Mirage has opened a glitzy 600-rooms casino resort in Macau. The $1.25 billion MGM Grand Macau is a joint venture between MGM and Pansy Ho, the daughter of Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho.

Ho controlled the casino business in the territory for 40 years until the government broke up his monopoly in 2001. Since then, a number of giant Las-Vegas style gambling resorts have opened up in Macau, pushing the city's gambling revenues past those of the Las Vegas strip.