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Japan logs record trade deficit in 2012

Japan logged a record annual trade deficit in 2012 as exports extended a slide in December, signalling that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to weaken the yen have been slow to gain traction. A Reuters monthly poll showed Japanese manufacturing sentiment is improving but the 2012 trade gap of 6.93 trillion yen ($78.27 billion) and a seventh consecutive monthly drop in exports show that has yet to translate into hard economic data. The second consecutive annual trade deficit recorded by a nation that for decades had racked up hefty surpluses, helping to finance its ballooning debt, underlines the need for Abe's government to strike a balance between economic growth and fiscal reform.

Hyundai quarterly profit dented by won's rise

South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. reported its lowest quarterly profit in nearly two years on Thursday due to lacklustre car sales at home and a surge in the local currency that made it less competitive with Japanese automakers. South Korea's largest automaker earned 1.89 trillion won ($1.77 billion) in the October-December quarter, down 5.5% over a year earlier. The result was below the median analyst forecast of 2.05 trillion won, according to FactSet. It was also the automaker's smallest profit since the first quarter of 2011.

Cameron warns Europe against 'shoehorning'

Prime Minister David Cameron warned European leaders on Thursday that any attempt to shoehorn countries into ever deeper political union was a mistake that Britain would not be a part of. "Countries in Europe have their histories, their traditions, their institutions, want their own sovereignty, their ability to make their own choices, and to try and shoehorn countries into a centralised political union would be a great mistake for Europe, and Britain wouldn't be part of it," he told CEOs and investors in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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