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- Britain's construction sector unexpectedly picked up more speed in November, hitting its strongest levels of output and employment since August 2007, according to a survey of purchasing managers. A day after a similar survey showed Britain's manufacturing sector also growing much more quickly than forecasts, Tuesday's construction data will further buoy finance minister George Osborne who is due to give an update on the government's economic plans on Thursday. "Construction activity continues to spring back to life during the final months of 2013," said Tim Moore, senior economist with Markit, although he stressed the recovery was coming from a low base. Still, Britain is falling far short of the estimated 250,000 new homes a year needed to keep up with population growth.
By Steve Slater and Aashika Jain LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland's systems crash that left more than 1 million British and Irish customers unable to withdraw cash or pay for goods on Monday has revived concerns about the resilience of the state-backed bank's technology. The three-hour outage on one of the busiest shopping nights of the year could cost RBS millions of pounds in compensation and comes as Britain's regulator is threatening to fine the bank for the collapse of its payment systems last year. The regulator has been scrutinising the resilience of banks' technology amid concerns that outdated systems and a lack of investment could cause more crashes. From 1830-2130 GMT on Monday, RBS's cash machines didn't work and many customers trying to pay for goods with debit cards at supermarkets and petrol stations, buy goods online or use online or mobile banking were unable to complete transactions.
By Stanley White and Elaine Lies TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called on Japan and China to find ways to reduce tensions that spiked after Beijing proclaimed an air defense zone over disputed isles in the East China Sea, while repeating Washington was "deeply concerned" by the move. "This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation," Biden told a news conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "This underscores the need for crisis management mechanisms and effective channels of communication between China and Japan to reduce the risk of escalation." He said he would raise U.S. concerns directly when he met Chinese leaders. Biden was on the first leg of an Asian trip that takes him to Beijing on Wednesday and then to Seoul.
Japan and China must set up systems for talking to each other and dealing with crises if they are to avoid a worsening of their territorial dispute, US Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday. Biden, in Tokyo at the start of a three-nation tour of Asia, said he will be talking "in great specificity" with Chinese leaders about the row over Beijing's declaration last month of an air defence zone in the East China Sea. "This underscores the need for crisis management mechanisms and effective channels of communication between China and Japan to reduce risk of escalation," he told a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Biden's visit comes as relations between China and Japan are at their lowest point in years, with both sides sending fighter jets to shadow the other's planes over the newly declared air defence identification zone.
By Andrew Osborn and Ben Blanchard BEIJING (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron promised China's leaders on Monday he would advocate a multi-billion-dollar free trade deal between Beijing and the European Union, riling the EU executive which rejected the move as premature. On a three-day visit with around 100 business people, the largest-ever British mission of its kind, Cameron said Britain was the Western country most open to Chinese investment and well-placed to take advantage of China's market liberalisation. "China's transformation is one of the defining facts of our lifetime ... I see China's rise as an opportunity, not just for the people of this country but for Britain and the world," Cameron told reporters after meeting Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.