Morning business round-up: Eurozone downturn slows

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

The downturn in the 17 economies that share the euro eased slightly in December, according to a closely watched survey.

The composite survey of thousands of firms by research firm Markit showed a continued contraction - but at a slower rate than in November.

Manufacturing in Germany - the eurozone's strongest economy - shrank for the third month in a row.

Japanese manufacturers' sentiment has turned pessimistic due to a strong yen and Europe's debt crisis, the latest Tankan survey has found.

In its quarterly survey, the Bank of Japan said that confidence among large manufacturers in the three months to December dropped to a reading of minus four, down from plus two three months ago.

The survey is one of the factors considered by the bank's rate-setters.

The merger of two major Latin American airlines has been approved, creating the largest carrier in the region.

Brazil's anti-trust authorities said they had approved the merger of the Brazilian airline TAM with Chile's LAN, first proposed in 2010.

The new airline, LATAM, is valued at about $14.5bn (£9.4bn) and will represent 6% of global air transport.

Last year, TAM and LAN flew more than 45 million passengers and 754,777 tonnes of cargo.

Insurer Old Mutual is to sell its Nordic business to Skandia Liv for 22.5bn Swedish crowns ($3.2bn; £2bn).

The division being sold includes savings and banking operations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden operating under the Skandia brand.

Money from the sale will be used to cut debt, with any surplus proceeds returned to shareholders.

It filed five years' worth of reports on Wednesday, just three hours before a deadline set by the Tokyo exchange.

However, Olympus's stock fell 20.8% on Thursday as investors worried that the company may be running short of cash.

Media caption,

Biz Heads

Shares in jeweller Chow Tai Fook closed at HK$13.80 ($1.77), down from an offer price of HK$15.

Insurance firm New China Life also lost ground, falling to HK$25.70 from an offer price of HK$28.50.

India's rupee has continued its record slide against the US dollar, falling to a new low as global fiscal fears force traders to safer currency options.

The rupee hit the new all-time low of 54.30 in early trading. Analysts say it could test the 55 mark.

The benchmark Sensex index followed the rupee in a downward move.

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