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    MORNING BELL: China Q4 growth slows to 6.8%

    China's economy grew 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, the slowest since the global financial crisis, putting pressure on Beijing to roll out more support measures as fears of a sharper slowdown panic investors. Chinese leaders have been struggling to put a floor under cooling activity, even as a renewed plunge in the country's stock markets and the yuan currency CNY=CFXS have stoked worries that conditions in the world's second-largest economy may be rapidly deteriorating. After being a major locomotive of global growth in recent years, China is locked in the midst of a protracted slowdown, weighed down by weak exports, factory overcapacity, slowing investment, a soft property market and high debt levels.

    Oil futures remained under pressure in early trading on Tuesday, following a slide that has seen prices fall by more than a quarter since the beginning of the year, as the full return of Iran to oil markets adds to an already huge supply overhang. Oil prices had briefly stabilised in the previous session, but only after hitting the lowest since 2003 as western sanctions against Iran were lifted, allowing the country with the world's fourth-largest oil and gas reserves to return in full to the market.   Prices came under pressure on Tuesday morning as Iran ordered a sharp increase in oil output to take immediate advantage of the lifting of sanctions.

    In the currency markets, the dollar held to modest gains against the yen after rising overnight amid a slight thaw in risk aversion. The dollar was little changed at 117.39 yen JPY= after rising 0.2 percent overnight, managing to pull away from a 4.5-month low of 116.51 touched last week. The euro was flat at $1.0893 after dipping about 0.2 percent on Monday.











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