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Only three weeks into his new duties, the chief of Brazil's central bank was fired. Francisco Lopes took the post Jan. 13 - replacing Gustavo Franco, who'd resigned - and announced an 8-percent devaluation of the real the same day. Arminio Fraga, a US-trained economist and former aide to billionaire financier George Soros, was named as Lopes's successor. The surprise move came as government officials met with an International Monetary Fund delegation on measures to reform Brazil's economy. The Finance Ministry said no changes to "overall economic policy guidelines" would be made.

Five of the largest and most troubled investment trusts in China will be closed in the next two months, the government announced. The problems of such institutions surged into the headlines Jan. 11 when one - Guangdong International Trust and Investment Corp. - went bankrupt, owing much of its $4.3 billion debt to foreign lenders. Many of China's remaining 240 trusts are on the verge of bankruptcy because they indulged in stock and real-estate speculation.

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