After another year of debate, t he European Commission unanimously enacted a new accounting rule this week, forcing public companies to measure financial instruments at market value, rather than a historic average. The new rule will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2005.

Many banks and financial institutions had balked at the rule a year ago, saying that it would introduce dangerous volatility into their books, and several European governments agreed to compromise on the issue and delay the rule's inclusion in the new International Financial Reporting Standards.

The last remaining issue for the accounting standardization of the economic zone's 7,000 listed companies involves hedge accounting, and whether banks should be allowed to use deposit accounts for hedging.

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