Glance at economic developments

BRUSSELS – The European Union proposed new rules extending oversight for the €2 trillion hedge fund and private equity fund industry and saying it wanted other parts of the world to follow its example. Under the new rules, managers of large hedge funds and private equity buyout funds would have to register in Europe to do business there and would have to regularly inform regulators about their trades and debts to prove that they don’t pose a risk to the financial system.

Meanwhile, European business and consumer confidence bounced back in April for the first time in nearly two years, generating hopes that the worst of the recession may have passed and a recovery – of still uncertain strength – may be in the offing. In its monthly survey of economic sentiment, the European Commission said businesses and shoppers in both the 27-member European Union and the 16 countries that use the euro were more optimistic in April for the first time since May 2007.

BERLIN – The German government forecast that the country’s economy – Europe’s biggest – will shrink by 6 percent this year but return to modest growth in 2010. Making its first official forecast for next year, the Economy Ministry said it expects gross domestic product to grow by 0.5 percent as exports recover in a more stable global environment.

Germany’s DAX rose 97.14 points, or 2.1 percent, to 4,704.56, while in France, the CAC-40 was 65.92 points, or 2.2 percent, higher at 3,116.94.

SHANGHAI – Asian markets recovered some ground Wednesday after bearing the brunt of the swine flu-related losses on Tuesday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 401.84 points, or 2.8 percent, to 14,956.95, and Shanghai’s main index added 2.8 percent to 2,468.19. Markets in Singapore, India and Taiwan also gained. Australian shares closed modestly lower after a seesaw session. Financial markets in Japan were closed for a national holiday and will reopen Thursday.

SAO PAULO – Brazil’s central bank is expected to make its third-straight rate cut this afternoon. The anticipated cut and increases in commodity prices bolstered market heavyweights. The Ibovespa stock index gained 2.1 percent to 46,776 in afternoon trading.

MEXICO CITY – This city of 20 million people has shut itself in as authorities try to prevent the epidemic from spreading.

Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line have suspended stops at Mexican ports over concerns about swine flu. Carnival said on its Web site it has canceled all calls at Mexican ports through May 4.

Separately, France will ask the European Union to suspend flights to Mexico as a result of spreading swine flu, its health minister said. The country says flights from Mexico can continue. Cuba banned all flights to its neighbor and Argentina has imposed a temporary ban on flights arriving from Mexico.

The benchmark IPC index rose 3.1 percent to 22,323 in the afternoon after tumbling earlier this week.

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea posted a record current account surplus in March as imports fell sharply, the central bank said. Exports dropped less than in previous months. The Bank of Korea projects the country will muster a current account surplus of $18 billion for the whole year after a deficit last year.

The Kospi benchmark finished higher by 38.18 points, or 2.9 percent, to 1,338.42.

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s worst-ever recession likely bottomed in the first quarter, but the city-state faces a tepid recovery as global demand for its exports struggles to rebound, the central bank said.

LONDON – Troubled British van maker LDV laid off most of its employees and set a May 6 deadline to secure new funding or go into administration, a form of bankruptcy protection. The company informed its 900 employees that they would not be paid after this week, and said only senior management would continue working.

The FTSE 100 of leading British shares closed up 93.19 points, or 2.2 percent, at 4,189.59.

MADRID – Spain’s once booming economy shrank by 1.8 percent in the first quarter. The central bank said compiled data indicated gross domestic product fell by 2.9 over the past 12 months.

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