Morning Report: China Wakes; Spirits Consolidation Continues

China's exports surged 17.7 percent in December for the first time in over a year, while the country's imports took off on higher demand for crude oil and other commodities, strengthening the case for policy tightening and a possible yuan appreciation.

Data released over the weekend showed mainland China's exports rose 17.7 percent in December from a year earlier, far outstripping the 4 percent rise expected by many economists. That compares to a 1.2 percent fall in November.

Meanwhile, imports jumped 55.9 percent during the month. The surge helped narrow China's December trade surplus to $18.43 billion from $19.1 billion in November.

Chinese authorities are in a dilemma. While they have been continually urged by Western governments and financial authorities to let the yuan appreciate, the economy's recent surge has fueled domestic worries that it will ultimately lead to higher inflation and new asset bubbles.

Consolidation in the global brewing industry continued on Monday as Heineken emerged as the surprise winner in the battle to buy Femsa Cerveza, Mexico's second-largest brewer, in a $5.5 billion all-stock deal.

Dutch brewer Heineken NV, the world's second largest brewer by revenue, didn't enter a bid until recent weeks according to reports, yet beat out offers from a half dozen competitors.

After a series of consolidations in recent years, nearly a quarter of the global beer market is owned by the world's top four brewers, Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller Plc, Heineken and Carlsberg.

Facing a widening budget deficit and regional unemployment rate above 12 percent, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to name Austin Beutner, a former partner at private-equity giant Blackstone Group and co-founder of the boutique investment-banking firm Evercore Partners, as the ailing city's first economy chief.

The 49-year-old Mr. Beutner will have broad powers. About half of city government departments — from the Port of Los Angeles to the city's sprawling Department of Water and Power utility — will report to him. Mr. Beutner will report directly to Mr. Villaraigosa.

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