World briefs: IMF forecasts less growth

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WASHINGTON -- With economic leaders gathering in Washington for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings this week, the fund has nudged down its estimates for world growth in 2013.

In a periodic update to its economic projections, the fund said Tuesday that it expected global growth of about 3.3 percent this year and 4 percent in 2014. That is a reduction of 0.2 percentage point since its January estimate for 2013; it did not change its estimate for next year's growth.

Still, the report underscored that financial conditions have improved markedly since last year, in no small part because of aggressive monetary easing undertaken by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank.

Recession continues to afflict Europe, and the world still struggles with high unemployment, but risks to the downside -- in particular from the threat of a country's leaving the eurozone and from fiscal policy uncertainty in the United States -- have faded.

On a more positive note, the IMF said that equity prices had risen in a broad market rally, and volatility had fallen to pre-crisis levels. The spread between government bond yields for periphery and central eurozone economies has diminished as well.

The fund lowered its estimate of U.S. growth this year to 1.9 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from its January forecast. But it said the United States was "in the lead" in seeing an acceleration of growth, in part because Washington policymakers were able to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts at the turn of the year.

Earthquake rocks Iran

TEHRAN, Iran -- A major earthquake described as the strongest to hit Iran in more than half a century flattened homes and offices Tuesday on both sides of the Iran-Pakistan border, killing at least 46 people in the sparsely populated region and swaying skyscrapers and buildings as far away as New Delhi.

Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency and others described the quake, measured at least magnitude 7.7, as the strongest quake in more than 50 years. State-run Press TV called it a "massive quake."

It also was the second deadly quake to hit Iran in less than a week after a magnitude 6.1 temblor struck near Bushehr, on Iran's Persian Gulf coast, killing at least 37 people and raising calls for greater international safety inspectors at Iran's lone nuclear reactor nearby.

The quake was felt over a vast area from New Delhi to Gulf cities that have some of the world's tallest skyscrapers, including the record 2,717 -foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Officials ordered temporary evacuations from some high-rises as a precaution.

The worst-hit area, along Iran's southeastern border, is home to nearly 2 million people, who live in three main cities, Zahaedan, the provincial center, and the epicenter of the earthquake between the cities of Saravan and Khash, where roughly 400,000 people live, the semiofficial Tabnak website reported.

Musharraf disqualified

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Pakistani judges Tuesday disqualified Pervez Musharraf from running in the upcoming parliamentary election, a blow to the former military ruler who recently returned from self-imposed exile to make a political comeback, lawyers said.

Over a week ago, a judge in the remote northern district of Chitral gave Mr. Musharraf approval to run in the May 11 election, even though he was disqualified in three other districts for suspending the constitution and sacking senior judges while in power.

Pakistan's political system allows a candidate to run for multiple seats simultaneously.

China leads in clean energy

WASHINGTON -- China overtook the United States last year as the global leader in clean energy investment while American spending on renewables dropped nearly 40 percent, according to a report to be released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

China's leaders are intensely focused on clean energy. The Chinese have aggressive targets for renewable energy and helped bankroll the rapid growth of the country's solar and wind industries. That resulted in China attracting $65 billion in clean energy investment last year, according to the Pew report, representing 30 percent of all renewable investment in the world's top 20 economies.

The United States led in global clean energy investment until 2009. America then traded the top spot with China before reclaiming it during the surge in investment that came along with the stimulus legislation and a record boom in U.S. wind energy construction. American investment in wind skyrocketed as developers scrambled to finance projects before a tax break was to expire at the end of last year.

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