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TOP STORIES

U.S. GDP seen growing faster in third quarter

WASHINGTON - The U.S. economy grew faster than initially estimated in the third quarter as businesses aggressively accumulated stock, but underlying domestic demand remained sluggish. (USA-ECONOMY/ (WRAPUP 1), expect by 1400 GMT/9 AM ET, by Lucia Mutikani, 550 words)

ECB holds rates, focus shifts to new forecasts

FRANKFURT - The European Central Bank remains prepared to take various policy options to support the euro zone economy, President Mario Draghi says. (ECB/RATES (UPDATE 3), expect by 1430 GMT/9.30 AM ET, by Paul Carrel, 580 words)

UK's Osborne says vindicated by rebound, vows to stay course

LONDON - British finance minister George Osborne celebrates a sharp turnaround in the economy as vindication of his push to fix a gaping budget deficit but he says he will not relax his austerity grip in the years ahead. (BRITAIN-BUDGET/ (UPDATE 3, PICTURE), moved, by William Schomberg and David Milliken, 760 words)

Japan approves $182 bln economic package, doubts remain

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet approved a $182 billion package to pull the economy out of deflation, but doubts remain about the impact. (JAPAN-ECONOMY/STIMULUS (UPDATE 1), moved, by Stanley White, 470 words)

Swiss banks prepare to bow to U.S. tax demands, grudgingly

ZURICH - Switzerland's private banks have little choice but to bow to massive pressure to clear with their past as a tax hideaway for wealthy Americans as a deadline for a controversial tax deal with U.S. officials looms. (USA-TAX/SWITZERLAND, expect by 1500 GMT/10 AM ET, by Katharina Bart, 850 words)

EXCLUSIVE

Nigerian drive to end fuel subsidy fraud mired in confusion

ABUJA/LAGOS - Nigeria's drive to clean up a gasoline subsidy scheme that soaks up a fifth of federal spending is mired in confusion, with the government, anti-graft investigators and fuel importers at odds over attempts to root out massive fraud. (NIGERIA-FRAUD/ (EXCLUSIVE), moved, by Joe Brock and Tim Cocks, 1,300 words)

ECONOMY

Fed should telegraph QE reductions, Lockhart says

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., - Once the Federal Reserve finally trims its bond-buying program, it should then commit to an effective schedule that will wind it down completely, a top U.S. central banker says. (USA-FED/LOCKHART, moved, by Jonathan Spicer, 720 words)

Bond sale takes Spain past 2013 fundraising target

MADRID - Spain's penultimate bond auction of 2013 sees the sovereign sail past its issuance target for the year, helping build up cash to pay off short-term paper and lengthen the government's overall debt maturity. (SPAIN-BONDS/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 380 words)

+ See also:

- FRANCE-BONDS/, moved, 200 words

Ukraine corporate bonds hit by fear of devaluation, curbs

LONDON - Dollar bonds issued by Ukrainian companies back in the easy-money times are taking a hit on doubts over the country's solvency and fears that a currency devaluation or capital curbs might propel firms into default. (UKRAINE-COMPANIES/, moved, by Sujata Rao, 700 words)

China bars banks from bitcoin transactions

SHANGHAI - China's government bans financial institutions from trading in bitcoin, in what analysts says is a restrained first step towards regulating the digital currency that has exploded in popularity in China and soared in value in recent months. (CHINA-BITCOIN/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by John Ruwitch and Pete Sweeney, 730 words)

Norway delays rate hike by a year to boost waning growth

OSLO - Norway's central bank delays a planned interest rate hike by a year, hoping to boost growth and guide the economy through unexpected turbulence which has knocked it off its perch as Western Europe's best performer. (NORWAY-RATES/ (UPDATE 3), moved, by Balazs Koranyi and Camilla Knudsen, 580 words)

+ See also:

- FINLAND-GDP/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 225 words

COMPANIES

Merck KGaA offers $2.6 bln for AZ Electronic Materials

FRANKFURT/LONDON - Merck KGaA, the world's largest maker of liquid crystals for flat panel displays, bids 1.6 billion pounds ($2.61 billion) for Britain's AZ Electronic Materials to bolster its offering of speciality chemicals. (MERCK-AZ/BID (UPDATE 2), moved, by Paul Sandle and Ludwig Burger, 500 words)

BNP Paribas to buy Rabobank's Polish unit for $1.4 bln

WARSAW - BNP Paribas has agreed to buy the Polish business of its Dutch rival Rabobank for $1.4 billion, as the French bank returns to the acquisition trail after a period of re-structuring and seeks growth outside the eurozone. (POLAND-BGZ/ (UPDATE 3), moved, by Marcin Goclowski and Adrian Krajewski, 925 words)

Portugal's CTT shares rise in debut, investors eye bank

LISBON - Portugal's postal service CTT rise as much as 7 percent in its stock exchange debut, following the bailed-out country's first IPO in almost five years that helps Lisbon further exceed its privatisation revenue target. (PORTUGAL-POST/IPO (UPDATE 2), moved, by Daniel Alvarenga and Sergio Goncalves, 500 words)

GM to drop Chevy brand in Europe to focus on Opel

FRANKFURT - General Motors will drop the Chevrolet brand in Europe by end 2015, and focus its resources on pushing its Opel and Vauxhall brands, the latest effort by the U.S. carmaker to turn around its European operations. (GENERALMOTORS-CHEVY/ (UPDATE 3), moved, by Edward Taylor and Arno Schuetze, 750 words)

+ See also:

- DONGFENG-RENAULT/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Laurence Frost and Donny Kwok, 580 words

Zurich Insurance may exit businesses to boost profits

ZURICH/FRANKFURT - Zurich Insurance pledges to improve profitability and sell underperforming businesses over the next three years, boosting its share even as it warns it will miss some of its targets in 2013. (ZURICH-GOALS/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Jonathan Gould and Paul Arnold, 550 words)

Kangaroos and SQUID: technology transforms mines hunt

LONDON - From intelligent drills to analysing gum tree leaves, an unprecedented push to develop new methods and technologies promises to transform the way miners explore for new deposits, allowing them to dig deeper, faster and more cheaply. (MINING-HIDDENDEPOSITS/, expect by 1530 GMT/10.30 AM ET, by Clara Ferreira-Marques, 860 words)

Dubai state fund buys Atlantis hotel from debt-laden peer

DUBAI - Some of Dubai's state-owned entities step in to buy assets from indebted conglomerate Dubai World as the emirate speeds up on disposals to address upcoming debt maturities. (EMIRATES-ICD/ (UPDATE 3), moving shortly, by Mirna Sleiman and David French, 600 words)

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