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By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 19, 2010, 13:40 Updated : May 19, 2010, 13:40

△ Dollar Surges to New Four-year High Against Euro

The euro has fallen to a new four-year low against the dollar, fetching 1.2144 dollars in New York trading, as the European debt crisis led to new financial restrictions by Germany spooking markets.

Bearish sentiment on the euro prevailed even after eurozone finance ministers vowed to fix the region's finances while expressing concern at their plunging currency.

"The sentiment is very fragile," said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at Wells Fargo Bank.

"There are probably 100 reasons to sell the euro right now -- the ECB credibility is one issue, the growth concern is another issue, the lack of clear message from the EU different politicians in the euro zone is an issue, and the list goes on."

Traders said the euro's decline accelerated after Germany said it would issue new restrictions on bearish trading, also a reason for Wall Street's plunge by more than 100 points Tuesday.

"The only possible explanation for the move was Germany's decision to ban naked short selling and Venezuela's suspension of currency trading with plans to move to a trading ban," said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at Global Forex Trading.

△ Taliban Militants Attack NATO Afghan Military Base

Seven Taliban militants were killed and at least five NATO personnel wounded in clashes at Bagram military base in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, NATO said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 20 suicide bombers took part in the assault, which began overnight.

"Seven insurgents have been killed during an ongoing attack on Bagram that included rockets, small arms and grenades," NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

Bagram, around 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Kabul, is a huge NATO airbase. International forces also have a prison at the site, opened following the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Wednesday's attack came after attacks on Tuesday left eight NATO soldiers dead.

A car bomb attack claimed by the Taliban killed at least 18 people, including six troops -- five US and one Canadian.

NATO said another two soldiers had been killed in the south of the country on Tuesday, one by an improvised explosive device, the weapon of choice for Taliban insurgents, and one by small arms fire.

At least 210 NATO soldiers, 130 of them from the United States, have died in the war so far this year. It has been the deadliest January to May period since a US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime.

△ US Bans More Gulf Fishing as oil Fears Grow

The United States closed off a large chunk of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing as fears a giant oil slick could be swept to Florida's beaches and coral reefs overshadowed progress in stemming the spill.

The cautionary closure, totaling 45,728 square miles (118,430 square kilometers) -- around 19 percent of the Gulf's federal waters -- was announced as politicians in Washington raged over the apparent lax enforcement of safety standards and grilled government officials over what went wrong.

The chief of the US agency monitoring the spill warned the "unprecedented and dynamic" slick was on course to sweep along the region's coastline.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief Jane Lubchenco told reporters the oil was "increasingly likely" to reach the powerful Gulf current that would carry it to the Florida Keys and perhaps even beyond -- if it has not already done so.

But she told lawmakers that once the oil reaches the Florida Strait -- within eight to 12 days of entering the loop current -- "it would likely be significantly weathered and degraded as well as diluted," showing up in the form of emulsified streamers and tar balls rather than fresh crude.

Experts meanwhile analyzed at least 20 tar stains found on several beaches of Florida's southern Keys to determine whether they came from the spill.

Senator Bill Nelson described the prospect of oil hitting his state of Florida and heading up the US eastern seaboard as his "worst nightmare."

△ Australia's Fortescue Cites Tax, Suspends Projects

Australia's Fortescue Metals put multi-billion dollar iron ore projects expected to employ thousands of people on hold on Wednesday, blaming uncertainty caused by a major new tax on mining companies.

The proposed 40 percent levy on miners' "super profits" has incensed the key export industry and also prompted Anglo-Australian giant Rio Tinto to review all capital projects in the country.

"Fortescue Metals Group wishes to advise that two of the company?s three expansion projects have been placed on hold due to the financial impact of the federal government?s proposed Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT)," a company statement said.

"The uncertainty in the financial markets caused by the proposed tax and the cash impost that RSPT payments will place on future business revenues has necessitated an urgent review of the economics surrounding the development of Fortescue?s major projects."

Fortescue said development of its flagship Solomon Hub in Western Australia, which will cost nine billion US dollars in proposed investment and employ about 21,000 people, was "on hold until the finance impact of the RSPT can be fully determined".

The company said it was also shelving plans for a Western Hub estimated at six billion dollars and employing 11,500 people in operations and construction.


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