Brazil's economy grows at fastest clip in 15 months


Brazil's economy expanded by 0.75 percent in June relative to the previous month as tax breaks stimulated growth, the central bank said.

The uptick in the bank's economic activity index was the biggest since March 2011, when it rose 1.47 percent, the institution said Friday.

The central bank, which has lowered its 2012 growth forecast for the world's sixth-largest economy from 4.5 percent to 3 percent due to global economic woes, also said it was an auspicious sign that the economy grew 0.99 percent in June relative to same month of 2011.

The bank said the rise in economic activity in June was the result of a series of measures adopted by President Dilma Rousseff's administration, which has stimulated consumer spending by lowering taxes on automobiles, furniture, home appliances and other products.




Spanish banks' bad-loans ratio hits new record


The ratio of non-performing loans to total outstanding loans held by Spanish banks has risen to a record 9.42 percent, topping the previous mark of 9.15 percent set in February 1994.

According to data published Friday by the Bank of Spain, the total value of the banks' bad loans rose in June to 164.36 billion euros ($202.2 billion), compared to a total loan portfolio of 1.74 trillion euros ($2.14 trillion).

The bad-debt ratio climbed uninterruptedly between June 2011 and June 2012, increasing by 273 basis points over that 12-month period from 6.69 percent to 9.42 percent.

Numerous Spanish banks are battling to stay afloat after the bursting of a long-building property bubble left them saddled with too many non-performing loans.




11 Killed in bus crash in Mexico


Eleven people were killed and 25 others injured when a bus ran off the road and fell more than 100 meters (328 feet) in the northwestern Mexican state of Durango, authorities said.

The crash occurred at a spot known as The Devil's Spine on the highway linking Durango city with the Pacific resort of Mazatlan, the mayor of that municipality, Alejandro Higuera Osuna, told the media.

The Red Cross and the military joined fire rescue personnel at the site of the accident. The injured were taken to several different hospitals in Durango state.




Colombia captures 13 rebels in indigenous territory


Colombian police and troops captured 13 suspected FARC guerrillas on Nasa Indian land in the strife-torn southwestern province of Cauca, authorities said.

The two women and 11 men taken into custody are all residents of the village of El Palo and some may be members of the Nasa community, whose leaders demand that "all armed actors" in Colombia's internal conflict leave indigenous territory.

The people arrested Friday aided the insurgents who killed two police and a soldier in a grenade attack six months ago in El Palo, the army and police said in a joint statement.

The suspects were part of the "support networks" used by the 6th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, authorities said.




Spain's Nadal unconcerned about rankings drop


Spain's Rafael Nadal said he is suffering from a knee ailment known as Hoffa's syndrome but that he hopes to make a full recovery and is not worried about a further ranking drop after pulling out of the U.S. Open.

The 26-year-old tennis star unveiled the diagnosis in remarks to Efe from his hometown on the island of Mallorca, saying that his current knee injury - which is also known as fat pad impingement and involves pain and swelling around the bottom and under the kneecap - is different from his previous tendon ailments.

The injury forced the world No. 3 to pull out of four tournaments in succession: the London Olympics, two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati and the U.S. Open.

Because he reached the final of the year's last Grand Slam event in 2011 and will be replacing those points with nothing, his ranking will almost certainly fall further in September.




Brazil's Vale postpones $3 bn potash project in Canada


Brazilian mining giant Vale has halted a $3 billion potash project in Canada due to global economic uncertainty, the daily O Estado de S. Paulo reported.

"Certainly it won't be implemented now," CEO Murilo Ferreira told the newspaper, noting that the company was considering postponing other projects in Argentina and Guinea if the current global conditions persists.

The potash project in the Canadian prairie province of Saskatchewan, known as Kronau, was to have produced 2.9 million tons of that mineral annually.

O Estado de S. Paulo said Vale also is "reviewing" a similar potash project in the Argentine region of Rio Colorado, where the company is mulling a $5.9 billion investment, an iron-ore project in the West African nation of Guinea that would require an investment outlay of $2.5 billion.