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Done deal


WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama has hailed a deal reached to avert a fiscal cliff of huge tax rises and spending cuts.

US President Barack Obama (right) speaks as Vice-President Joe Biden looks on.

After the House of Representatives passed the bill by 257 votes to 167, Obama said the measures were “just one step in the broader effort to strengthen the economy”.

It raises taxes for the wealthy and delays spending cuts for two months.

There had been intense pressure for the vote to be passed before financial markets reopened today.

Favourable response

Financial markets have responded positively to the move.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index opened up 2.1 per cent this morning, while South Korea’s Kospi added 1.7 per cent and Australia’s ASX 200 rose 1.2 per cent.

In last night’s house vote, 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans voted in favour of the bill.

A majority of Republicans, 151 in total, voted no, along with 16 Democrats.

The bill had been passed in the Senate less than 24 hours earlier by 89 votes to eight after lengthy talks between Vice-President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans.

Speaking before returning to Hawaii for his interrupted Christmas holiday, Obama said that in signing the law he was fulfilling a campaign pledge.

“I will sign a law that raises taxes on the wealthiest two per cent of Americans… while preventing a middle-class tax hike,” he told a White House press conference.

The US deficit was still too high, he said. While open to compromise on budgetary issues, he would not offer Congress spending cuts in return for lifting the government’s borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling. (BBC)

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