News In Brief
The US dollar nose-dived to the lowest level against the Japanese yen since the 1930s, but later recovered a bit. The greenback was also down against other major currencies. A strong German mark forced a devaluation of the Spanish peseta and the Portuguese escudo, and the Italian lira hit a new low against the mark before a slight rebound. Perceptions that the US Federal Reserve is finished raising interest rates have weakened the dollar, while analysts believe German rates are due to rise. Lawyers said Barings bank lost 50 percent more money than earlier thought. Nearly $1.5 billion went down the drain in the merchant bank's collapse following bad futures deals by trader Nicholas Leeson. The bank said it had accepted a takeover bid by the Dutch ING group: The deal preserves the Barings name and 4,000 jobs.
In Estonia, a mix of technocrats, farm leaders, and low-ranking ex-Communists defeated reformers in parliamentary elections. The governing Fatherland Party and its partner, the Estonian Independence Party, were projected to get only seven of 101 seats in the new parliament. Winner Tiit Vahi of the center-left Coalition Party said it and the Rural Union party would continue free-market reforms, but keep a tighter social safety net.
Russia's interior minister fired Moscow's prosecutor and police chief. The move followed the gangland murder of a popular TV celebrity last week, which has fueled widespread public anger. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov had opposed the firings. Russia's Security Council was set to meet to consider anticrime measures. Meanwhile, Russian forces in Chechnya appeared poised for a ground assault on southern rebel strongholds following extensive air strikes.
Hong Kong voters rebuffed China, electing Democrats to 23 of 36 municipal-council seats. The largest pro-Beijing party won eight seats. In Beijing, Finance Minister Liu told the legislature defense spending would increase 21 percent in 1995 despite a rising deficit. He said the government wants to hold inflation at 15 percent.
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