China criticizes US pressure over currency

China on Tuesday rejected U.S. calls to ease currency controls and said criticism would not help efforts to end the global crisis.

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A Commerce Ministry spokesman repeated Chinese complaints that Washington was acting unreasonably by expecting other countries to raise their value of their currencies in order to boost U.S. exports. The United States and other trading partners complain Beijing keeps the yuan undervalued and are pressing for it to rise.

“Politicizing the exchange rate issue is not helpful to coordination among all parties in the course of fighting the global financial crisis,” spokesman Yao Jian said at a news briefing.

A group of 130 U.S. lawmakers wrote to President Barack Obama on Monday demanding that he take action, adding to pressure ahead of an April report in which the U.S. Treasury has the option of declaring Beijing a currency manipulator. That would set the stage for a complaint to the World Trade Organization and possible sanctions. [Read the full article]

PepsiCo plans to remove sugary drinks from schools worldwide, following the success of programs in the U.S. aimed at cutting down on childhood obesity.

The company said Tuesday it will remove full-calorie, sweetened drinks from schools in more than 200 countries by 2012, marking the first such move by a major soft drink producer.

Both PepsiCo Inc., the world’s second-biggest soft drink maker, and No. 1 player Coca-Cola Co. adopted guidelines to stop selling sugary drinks in U.S. schools in 2006. [Read the full article]

In this photo made Feb. 8, 2010, workers construct new homes in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Housing construction fell in February as winter blizzards held down activity in the U.S. Northeast and South. The decline highlighted the challenges facing builders as they struggle to emerge from the worst housing slump in decades.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that construction of new homes and apartments fell 5.9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 575,000 units, slightly higher than the 570,000 that economists were expecting. January activity was revised up to a pace of 622,000 units, the strongest showing in 14 months.

Economists characterized the February dip as weather-related although they said any housing rebound this year is likely to be modest at best given a variety of headwinds from record home foreclosures to high unemployment. [Read the full article]

Honda Motor Co. will recall more than 410,000 Odyssey minivans and Element small trucks in the U.S. because of braking system problems that could make it tougher to stop the vehicle if not repaired.

Honda said in a statement that over time, brake pedals can feel “soft” and must be pressed closer to the floor to stop the vehicles. Left unrepaired, the problem could cause loss of braking power and possibly a crash, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said. [Read the full article]

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