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Worst phase of crisis is over, say finance chiefs

FINANCE chiefs from the G7 group of leading economic nations believe the global economy may be past the worst phase of a recession although recovery is not yet assured, and they pledged to make sure that big financial firms are sound.

Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers said after a meeting in Washington on Friday that economic activity should begin to recover later this year.

However, they said the outlook remained weak and there was a risk that the global economy may still worsen.

"We are right to be somewhat encouraged, but we would be wrong to conclude that we are close to emerging from the darkness that descended on the global economy early last fall," US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.

It was a less dire assessment than the G7 finance officials delivered at their last meeting in February, when they warned that the severe downturn would persist through most of 2009 and made no mention of promising signs of stability.

"Recent data suggest that the pace of decline in our economies has slowed and some signs of stabilization are emerging," the G7 said in a closing communique.

"We will continue to act, as needed, to restore lending, provide liquidity support, inject capital into financial institutions, protect savings and deposits and address impaired assets. We reaffirm our commitment to take all necessary actions to ensure the soundness of systemically important institutions," the statement said.

Japanese Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano said "signs of stabilization" was "an expression with a question mark."

"But we understand that the G7 statement has indirectly expressed the view that the worst may be possibly over for the world economy," he added.

The G7, which comprises the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, met a day before the International Monetary Fund and World Bank begin their twice-yearly meetings.

The larger G20 group, which includes China and India, held a meeting after the G7 but issued no official statement. Geithner said both groups had the same agenda.

"The agenda will be: what are we doing? Are we doing enough to help attenuate the risks in this recession, lay the foundation for an earlier recovery, lay the foundation for a more balanced, more sustainable recovery?" he said.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said: "We're going in the right direction."


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