Morning Business Memo

Dec 28, 2011 7:28am

Is China a currency manipulator? No, says the Obama administration, after recent increases in the value of the yuan compared to the dollar. The decision angered some manufacturing groups. They accuse China of artificially holding down the value of its currency. A cheaper yuan makes Chinese goods less expensive when they are shipped to the United States. It also makes U.S. goods more expensive in China. Both could increase the U.S. trade deficit with China, which may hit a record high this year. The Treasury Department says the yuan has appreciated 12 percent against the dollar in the past 18 months, after adjusting for inflation. Still, Treasury says the yuan is “substantially undervalued.”

Mixed signals from Europe’s debt crisis: A pair of successful bond auctions today raised $14 billion for Italy and forced down the interest rate the country pays on its debt. The short-term sale went better than expected with much lower rates than last month. Yields on six-month Italian bills were slashed from 6.5 to around 3.25 percent. Lower yields suggest investors are less nervous about buying short-term Italian government paper. But Europe’s banks have parked a record $450 billion at the European Central Bank’s overnight lending facility. This means the region’s banks are very reluctant to lend each other money as they worry about the impact of Europe’s financial problems.

Ford has a big hit on its hands. In a couple of weeks, says USA Today, Ford will showing off a new Fusion midsize sedan. One analyst who got a sneak peak told us it’s a stunner. But even as it gets ready for the new one, the existing Fusion is on its way to its best sales year ever. In five years, sales have risen by 54 percent between 2006 and 2010. Fusion introduced a hybrid version for the 2010 model year, achieving a rating of 41 miles a gallon in city driving.

More Green Bay Packers fans will soon be able to call themselves NFL owners. The Packers are offering another 30,000 shares for sale after selling nearly 250,000 shares earlier. They go for $250 each, and include voting rights.

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