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Morning Market Roundup: Credit Growth in EU, Bailouts, Nokia's Last Hope?


EU: The European Central Bank (ECB) says the flow of credit to businesses grew more slowly in February - a sign that the bank's massive loans to the financial system have yet to kickstart a lagging eurozone economy.

Figures released Wednesday showed loans to nonfinancial corporations - a key credit indicator - grew by only 0.4 percent on an annual basis, down from 0.7 percent in January.

The ECB made two rounds of cheap loans to banks Dec. 21 and Feb. 29, adding about €500 billion ($666 billion) in net new credit to the financial system. The loans were introduced in the hope that the money would find its way to businesses and consumers as loans and, in turn, promote growth.

The loans are credited with easing the eurozone debt crisis by removing fears that one or more of Europe's shaky banks might fail, and by making it easier for heavily indebted governments such as Italy to borrow on bond markets.

Bailout: The 17 countries that use the euro are debating building up their new rescue fund to its full €500 billion ($670 billion) capacity faster than originally planned as part of a broader plan to beef up the currency union's financial firewalls.

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will have a capital base of €80 billion, paid in by eurozone governments. This €80 billion - together with €620 billion in a form of payment guarantees from the member governments - can then be used to raise up to €500 billion on financial markets and with banks.

Under current plans, the countries' capital payments into the fund would be spread out until 2015. Two installments worth a total of €32 billion would be paid in this year, while the remaining €48 billion would come in three annual €16 billion slices.

That would mean that, when it comes into force in July, the ESM would only be capable of lending out some €200 billion in new rescue loans.

But two European Union officials said Wednesday that the eurozone is now debating to also make two payments next year, with the final one coming in 2014, instead of 2015. Under that scenario, the ESM could hand out around €400 billion in loans by next year and the full €500 billion loan capacity would be reached by 2014.

U.S.: Stock futures are rebounding on a government report that shows that businesses are investing more in machinery, computer systems, and other long-lasting items.

Dow Jones industrial futures are up 28 points to 13,152 and the Standard & Poor's 500 futures are up 2.4 points to 1,408.8. The Nasdaq composite futures are up 6 points to 2,781.75.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that orders for durable goods, things expected to last at least three years, rose 2.2 percent.

Tech: Struggling cellphone maker Nokia launched its first smartphone design for China on Wednesday, looking to the world's biggest mobile market to help drive a turnaround.

Nokia said its new Lumia 800C is designed to run on China's CDMA networks and will be supported by China Telecom, one of the country's three major state-owned carriers.

Finland-based Nokia launched a corporate turnaround effort one year ago after falling far behind Apple Inc. and other competitors in tapping into the new popularity of smartphones.

China is the world's biggest mobile phone market with about 900 million accounts, and is Nokia's biggest market.

"China is critically important for Nokia," CEO Stephen Elop told a news conference.

The Lumia 800C will go on sale in early April for 3,599 yuan ($570), according to Elop.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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