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Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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Greece, Italy turn to experts for way out of debt

ATHENS, Greece (AP) â¿¿ Europe's financial crisis eased Thursday as Greece installed a respected economist to replace its prime minister and Italy appeared poised to do the same â¿¿ both hoping that monetary experts can do better than the politicians who drove their nations so deeply into debt.

The announcement in Athens â¿¿ coupled with the prospect that volatile Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be ushered out soon â¿¿ quieted market fears, at least for now, that turmoil in Europe could threaten the global economy.

But significant challenges remain in both debt-heavy Mediterranean countries.

Greece's new prime minister, Lucas Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank, must quickly secure the crucial loan installment without which his country will go bankrupt before Christmas, and approve the EU's $177 billion bailout deal.

In Italy, lawmakers have to pass new austerity measures over the next few days. However, expectations that respected economist Mario Monti will lead an interim technocratic government after Berlusconi goes helped lift the gloom.

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MF Global's dive shows few changes on Wall Street

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ After countless new rules designed to make Wall Street safer, it's come to this: Another securities firm has collapsed from risky, poorly disclosed bets.

Not enough, in other words, has changed since the U.S. financial system nearly toppled three years ago.

The bankruptcy filing last week by MF Global Holdings Ltd. didn't freeze lending and panic investors around the world, as Lehman Brothers' did in 2008. But the rapid fall of the firm run by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine shows risky behavior persists, despite a vast regulatory overhaul.

As lenders abandon Italy this week and stocks plummet on fear that defaults in Europe are all but inevitable, those new rules are about to be put to the test. One question no one can answer: Is the financial system, with its expanding web of connections that even experts can't trace, any safer?

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