China's state-owned companies are being told not to cut jobs despite difficult economic conditions.

A top Chinese official, Li Rongrong with the State-owned Asset Supervision and Administration Commission, says Thursday state-owned enterprises must make social stability a priority.

China has been rocked by a series of protests by laid-off workers in recent months.  One protest by former toy company workers in October saw 7,000 people take to the streets.

Earlier this week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged companies to do everything they could to promote economic growth.

China also says it will allow its currency to be used in limited international transactions, with Hong Kong, Macau, and with members of the Association of Southeastern Nations, the first step towards making it an international currency.

The United States says Chinese exporters have an unfair price advantage because the yuan is not traded on the open market.

Meanwhile, one of the world's largest steel makers says it plans to temporarily stop production at one of its facilities.  Japan's JFE Steel Corporation blames the ailing global economy, and sluggish auto sales, for falling demand.

Also Thursday, Vietnam says its average inflation rate rose 23 percent in 2008 -- more than double the rate in 2007.  The General Statistics Office says food prices rose nearly 50 percent, while housing and construction materials rose just over 20 percent.

But the GSO says inflation has been steadily falling since reaching 28 percent back in August. 

Vietnam said Wednesday it expects its gross domestic product to grow 6.2 percent for 2008.  Vietnam's economy grew by 8.5 percent in 2007.


Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.