TO FINANCE, THE TWO LARGEST CREDIT RATING AGENCIES HAVE WARNED THAT THE U. S. MUST DO MORE TO LOWER ITS BALLOONING BUDGET DEFICIT.

STANDARD AND POORS SAYS THE FISCAL CLIFF DEAL HAS DONE NOTHING TO MAKE U. S. FINANCES MORE STABLE.

AND MOODYS SAYS AMERICA'S CREDIT RATING COULD BE AT RISK IF IT FAILS TO CUT ITS MASSIVE DEBT.

EUROPEAN MARKETS HAVE BEEN TRADING LOWER AFTER AN INIITIAL STRONG RESPONSE TO TUESDAY'S DEAL STAVING OFF A COMBINATION OF TAX RISES AND SPENDING CUTS.

#READ ON##

THE GLOBAL DAMAGE BILL CAUSED BY NATURAL CATASTROPHES LAST YEAR HAS BEEN ESTIMATED AT 160 BILLION DOLLARS.

##TAKE RVO##

THAT'S ACCORDING TO THE WORLD'S LEADING REINSURER, MUNICH RE (ree).

IT SAYS 65 BILLION DOLLARS IN INSURED LOSSES WERE COVERED WORLDWIDE.

THE HIGHEST LOSSES WERE CAUSED BY HURRICANE SANDY IN THE US.

OVERALL, GLOBAL LOSSES WERE MUCH LOWER THAN 2011 WHEN RECORD FIGURES WERE POSTED DUE TO EARTHQUAKES IN JAPAN AND NEW ZEALAND AND FLOODS IN THAILAND.

##READ ON##

TO THE MARKETS...

STOCKS IN THE U-S ARE UP SLIGHTLY.

LONDON'S FOOTSIE CLOSED 20 POINTS HIGHER.

TO COMMODITY PRICES -

WEST TEXAS CRUDE IS TRADING AT 93 U-S DOLLARS A BARREL.

TAPIS CRUDE IS TRADING AT 119 U-S DOLLARS A BARREL.

AND GOLD IS WORTH 16-HUNDRED AND 64 U-S DOLLARS AN OUNCE.

THE AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR IS BUYING 105 U-S CENTS, 80 EURO CENTS AND 65 PENCE STERLING.

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