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Apple Looks Set to Launch Cheaper iPhone by the Third Quarter

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Alibaba and China National Petroleum also make the news.

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April Auto Sales Rise in China

Despite a lackluster economic recovery, China auto sales rose 13% in April to 1.8 million vehicles, compared with 1.62 million a year ago.

"The result reflected strong consumer demand as well as a good inventory management by dealers," said UBS Securities in a research note. Sales of passenger cars improved 13% to 1.44 million vehicles.

Sales improved even though China's economic growth has slowed to 7.7% in the first quarter from 7.9% in the last quarter of 2012.

Japanese carmakers reported better April results overall compared with the last month. Nissan (OTCMKTS:NSANY) posted a 2.7% year-over-year increase in April sales after a 17% plunge in March. Toyota (NYSE:TM) saw sales fall 6.5% last month, though that was still better than the 17% slide in March. Similarly, Honda Motor's (NYSE:HMC) 2.4% April sales dip was an improvement over March's 6.6% drop.

American auto companies reported stronger results than their Japanese counterparts. General Motors (NYSE:GM) said sales of GM-branded cars and those of its Chinese partners jumped 15.3% last month to 251,870 vehicles, while Ford (NYSE:F) reported a sharp 37% increase to 75,337 vehicles.

CNPC Makes Move to Buy Brazil's Barra

China National Petroleum Corporation is in negotiations to buy Brazilian oil company Barra Energia Petroleo e Gas for $2 billion, Bloomberg reported, adding that a deal could be reached by the end of the month.

Backed by government funding, Chinese energy firms have been on an aggressive foreign acquisition spree in the past few years in order to secure domestic energy needs.

"It looks like the state-owned CNPC can gain access to one of the largest offshore reserves in the world through the deal, and build a foundation for long-term development in South America," Shi Yan, an analyst at UOB-Kay Hian in Shanghai, told Bloomberg. "Buying up assets from South America has long been part of CNPC's global strategy to build up exploration and refining portfolios in different continents."

Twitter: @sterlingwong
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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