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Morning briefing: Eastern European countries recovering, Asian markets down

Happy Friday! Here's what happened overnight in Europe and Asia:

*The World Bank said the European Union's newest members have returned to growth for the first time since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008. In the first quarter of 2010, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia saw an 0.8 rise in output. That compares with a 2.1 percent fall in output in the last quarter of 2009. The World Bank added, however, that this recovery was "weak" and that the countries would likely not see pre-crisis growth levels until next year. In Western Europe, growth is returning more slowly with output rising only 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

*China and Germany, China's biggest European trading partner, signed trade agreements that the countries said were worth at least $4.4 billion during Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Beijing. Siemens AG and Shanghai Electric Group Company agreed to join together to launch a $3.5 billion research and development effort for steam and gas turbines, while Daimler AG signed a $937 million contract with Beiqi Foton Motor Co.

*Asian stocks erased gains earlier this week as a drop in U.S. factory output and Google's unexpectedly weak earnings announcement after the market closed on Thursday added to worries about the economic recovery. Japan's Nikkei lost 2.9 percent, its biggest drop since June 7, while South Korea's Kospi shed 0.7 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.5 percent. European stocks and U.S. futures were fluctuating between gains and losses as investors reacted positively to the news of Goldman Sachs's settlement with the SEC and negatively to economic indicators released this week that showed the recovery may be stalling.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  |  July 16, 2010; 6:15 AM ET
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