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Morning business round-up: Italy's debt ratio rises

What made the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

Market Data

Last Updated at 08:54 GMT

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Italy's ratio of debt to its total ouput rose in 2011 while it struggled to grow, official figures have shown.

Its total debts increased to 120.1% of gross domestic product last year, up from 118.7% in 2010, the statistics agency Istat said.

But the annual deficit improved to 3.9% last year, from 4.6% previously.

Oil prices dipped from a 43-month high after Saudi Arabia denied reports that a key pipeline had exploded.

Brent crude fell back to $125.6 a barrel after jumping almost $6 to $128.40 on Thursday. US light crude fell slightly to $108.5.

Retail sales in Germany fell unexpectedly in January by 1.6% compared with the previous month, the biggest drop since May last year, official figures showed.

Meanwhile, Barclays confirmed that it borrowed 8.2bn euros (£6.7bn) from the European Central Bank's latest long-term refinancing operation.

It is the third British bank, following HSBC and Lloyds, to reveal it accessed the low-interest three-year loans.

In the UK, Northern Rock Asset Management (NRAM), the so-called "bad bank" that manages the mortgage book of failed and nationalised bank Northern Rock, repaid £2bn of the government's loan in 2011.

And a survey suggested surprising strength in the UK construction industry in February.

The Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index for construction rose to 54.3, up from 51.4 in January. Analysts had expected a slight fall.

In India, the government's attempt to sell a 5% stake in the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation fell slightly short of expectations.

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It received offers for 98% of the shares on sale and analysts said the government may have to reconsider how and when it offloads its stakes in major firms in future.

India's government has also sought clarification from the Supreme Court on its landmark judgement to cancel 122 telecommunications licences awarded to companies in 2008.

These companies provide services for nearly 70 million of the country's 900 million mobile phone subscribers.

The latest edition of Business Daily looks at what role gold has to play on today's international markets. A sociologist from the London School of Economics considers whether the "goldbugs" are right and several bankers debate if the time has come for a return to the gold standard.

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