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Morning business round-up: EU workers hold strikes

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

Tens of thousands of workers across the European Union are staging a series of protests and strikes against rising unemployment and austerity measures.

General strikes in Spain and Portugal halted transport, businesses and schools and led to clashes between police and protesters in Madrid.

Smaller strikes were reported in Greece, Italy and Belgium, and rallies were planned in other countries.

Official figures have shown the Greek economy shrank 7.2% in the third quarter compared with the same period a year earlier, deeper than the 6.3% contraction seen in the second quarter.

Portugal's recession also deepened in the third quarter, its National Statistics Institute (INE) said. The economy contracted 3.4% year-on-year, more than the 3.2% drop seen in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the EU has reached deadlock in talks on next year's budget, with governments refusing demands for extra money.

The crisis comes just a week ahead of a summit intended to map out EU spending plans for the next seven years.

Euro MPs refused to attend talks on Tuesday night because member governments - represented by the Council of Ministers - did not approve an extra 9bn euros (£7bn; $12bn) in "emergency funding" for this year.

The European Commission will now have to redraft the 2013 budget plan.

The European Commission has defended proposals for there to be at least 40% women non-executive directors on the boards of big listed companies by 2020.

Justice commissioner Viviane Reding postponed the launch of the policy last month, when EU lawyers warned quotas might not be enforceable.

The proposals require member states to decide what action to take against companies failing to reach the quota.

They need approval from the European Parliament and Council of Ministers.

Japan's Toyota has said it will recall 2.7 million cars worldwide because of problems with the steering wheel and water pump system.

The recall affects nine models, including the Toyota Corolla and the second-generation Prius.

It comes four weeks after the firm recalled more than seven million vehicles worldwide, including some Corolla and Camry models, over faulty window switches.

Shares in Sharp have jumped, following media reports that the chip maker Intel could invest as much as 40bn yen ($500m; £315m) in the struggling manufacturer.

Its shares rose as much 9% to 165 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Sharp has been trying to restructure its business amid mounting losses and falling sales.

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The world's largest mining firm, BHP Billiton, will sell its diamond business to jewellery maker Harry Winston as it looks to focus on core businesses such as iron ore and coal.

BHP will sell its Ekati mine in Canada and its diamond marketing operations for $500m (£314m).

The mine has produced more than three million carats of rough diamonds per year for the past three years.

India's inflation rate has slowed in October, hinting that price pressures on food and fuel may be easing in Asia's third-largest economy.

The wholesale price index, the country's main gauge of inflation, fell to 7.4% in October from a year earlier, down from 7.8% in September and a revised 8% in August.

Soft drink rivals AG Barr and Britvic have agreed the terms of a merger which creates one of Europe's largest soft drinks companies.

Irn Bru maker AG Barr and Tango producer Britvic opened discussions about a merger in September.

The new combined company will be called Barr Britvic Soft Drinks plc and will have annual sales of more than £1.5bn.

The merger is likely to see about 500 jobs cut from a combined headcount of just over 4,000 people.

The Bank of England has cut its UK growth forecast to 1%, with recovery "slow and protracted" and inflation staying higher than previously thought.

Continuing global economic fragility meant the previous forecast of about 2% was unlikely to be achieved, it said.

Delivering the Bank's quarterly report, governor Sir Mervyn King said recovery would follow a "zig-zag" pattern.

The central bank's forecast came as official figures showed UK unemployment fell by 49,000 to 2.51 million in the three months to September, its lowest total for more than a year.

The jobless rate fell to 7.8% from 7.9%.

The Office for National Statistics said that almost all the 49,000 fall was due to a decline in youth unemployment.

The latest Business Daily podcast from the BBC World Service speaks to the former President of the Argentine Central Bank, Mario Blejer. It asks him what it will mean for Argentina if the country loses its battle with a US vulture fund over La Libertad - a beautiful three-masted sailing frigate owned by the Argentine navy.

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