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Required reading: Five essential stories of the week

A general view of the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building

David Cannon/2009 Getty Images

Each week, Report on Business editors choose five stories that shouldn't be missed. Here are the 'must reads' for the week of Jan. 4, 2010.

Grading the worlds central bankers

As the world teetered on the brink of economic ruin 80 years ago, the most powerful central bankers and financial policy makers of the day compounded key blunders by essentially sitting on their hands or finding ways to make things worse. . . It's hard to imagine Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, current Bank of England governor Mervyn King or the Bank of Canada's Mark Carney ever ducking a spotlight. And it's even harder to picture them doing nothing while the sky falls. Brian Milner grades the world's central bank chiefs.

Built out of opulence; named for a bailout

Soaring 200 storeys and 828 metres into the sky, the world's tallest structure has opened in Dubai, a monument to the excesses of the emirate's bygone boom. But while the $1.5-billion (U.S.) tower's striking opulence recalls the unrestrained era of a massive property bubble, its surprise name is very much grounded in Dubai's new reality.

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Google tries to change the smart phone game

As online computing rapidly goes wireless, Google Inc. is betting its "super phone" will help keep the company the king of search. By launching its long-anticipated Nexus One wireless device with Google's Android operating system, Google is wading into a lucrative but hotly competitive segment of technology, hoping to ensure its highly profitable search engine - and accompanying advertising - will remain a premier gateway to the Web for consumers even as computing rapidly evolves into a wireless experience.

China price dispute scuttles potash talks

North America's largest potash producers are in a standoff with China, refusing to meet demands for lower prices in a key contract because they expect a rebound in the depressed fertilizer market. Investors in companies such as Mosaic Co., Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan and Agrium Inc. have been watching closely for a "floor price" that would be set in a Chinese contract after European producers reached a deal with China at about half the previous price.

China's red-hot risks

It was just a shade over four basis points - that's 4/100ths of a percentage point - but the People's Bank of China's decision to boost a key interest rate signals what economists see as a turning point in the hot Asian economy. China's central bank surprised markets Thursday by raising the rate on three-month bills for the first time in almost five months, following recent warnings from government officials that they must keep an eye on inflation and potential asset bubbles.

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