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TOP STORIES

Big cut in U.S. fourth-quarter GDP growth looms

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government is set to slash its estimate of fourth-quarter growth as exports and restocking by businesses were less robust than previously thought, leaving the economy on a more familiar path of modest expansion. (USA-ECONOMY/ (WRAPUP 1), moved, by Lucia Mutikani, 710 words)

European shares rise before key inflation numbers

LONDON - European stocks rise, supported by expectations a low reading of euro zone inflation later in the day will prompt the European Central Bank to ease monetary policy further and a record high close on Wall Street the previous day. (MARKETS-GLOBAL/ (WRAPUP 5), expect by 0930 GMT/4.30 AM ET, by Jamie McGeever, 750 words)

Yuan suffers biggest weekly loss, market reforms in focus

HONG KONG - China's yuan suffers its biggest weekly loss on record, as the central bank steps up its intervention to weaken the currency ahead of a key government meeting next week which may be used as a platform to unveil more market reforms. (MARKETS-CHINA-YUAN-CLOSE/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Michelle Chen, 1,175 words)

Japan's factory output jumps, inflation up but anxiety lingers

TOKYO - Japan's factory output rises in January at the fastest pace in more than two years and core inflation hovers at five-year highs, suggesting the economy has enough momentum to withstand an expected hit from a sales tax hike scheduled for April. (JAPAN-ECONOMY/OUTPUT (UPDATE 2), moved, by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Stanley White, 900 words)

ECONOMY

Reuters releases latest asset allocation poll

LONDON - Reuters releases the monthly survey of 50 leading investment houses in the United States, Japan and Europe on their asset allocation changes in a month when escalating tensions in Ukraine weighed on broader emerging markets. (FUNDS-POLL/GLOBAL, expect by 1200 GMT/7 AM ET, by Natsuko Waki, 750 words)

Spain's consumer prices fall for the first time since October

MADRID - Spain's national consumer price index falls by 0.1 percent in February, the first time prices have dropped since October, adding to deflation fears and raising pressure on the European Central Bank to act. (SPAIN-ECONOMY/PRICES (UPDATE 1), moved, 300 words)

Lower car sales, heating bills weigh on French consumer spending

PARIS - Falling car sales and lower-than-usual energy consumption due to warm weather dragged French consumer spending sharply lower in January from the previous month, weighing on recovery in the consumer-dependent economy. (FRANCE-ECONOMY/SPENDING, moved, 315 words)

South Korea readings underscore sluggish manufacturing

SEOUL - South Korea's industrial output grows marginally in January while a key manufacturing sector sentiment index reading for March dips to a five-month low, indicating sluggish activity for the sector so far this year. (KOREA-ECONOMY/OUTPUT (UPDATE 2), moved, by Se Young Lee and Christine Kim, 600 words)

Thai factory output falls 6.4 pct y/y in Jan

BANGKOK - Thai factory output declines slightly less than expected in January, but the 10th consecutive month of reduced activity is the latest indicator of declining domestic demand during the country's protracted political crisis. (THAILAND-ECONOMY/OUTPUT (UPDATE 2), moved, by Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong, 500 words)

COMPANIES

Bayer boosts peak sales estimate for top five new drugs

LEVERKUSEN, Germany - Germany's largest drugmaker Bayer lifts its estimate for potential sales of new drugs by billions of euros, softening the blow of a fall in fourth-quarter earnings. (BAYER-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Ludwig Burger, 290 words)

Spain's Bankia shares down around 4 pct after stake placement

MADRID - Shares in Spain's nationalised lender Bankia resumes trading down around 4 percent after the state sold 7.5 percent of the capital of the bank to institutional investors. (BANKIA-TRADING/ (UPDATE 1), moving shortly, 250 words)

Norway to study pulling wealth fund investment from oil, gas, coal

OSLO - Norway's ruling parties have agreed to study whether its $840 billion wealth fund, itself built on oil revenues, should pull out of investing in oil, gas and coal for environmental reasons, the Progress Party say. (NORWAY-FUND/OIL, moved, 335 words)

Russia's Lenta sets price for London IPO, valued around $4bln

MOSCOW - Russian hypermarket chain Lenta, part-owned by U.S. private equity firm TPG, set its planned London initial public offering at the lower end of a range netting around $1 billion for selling shareholders. (RUSSIA-LENTA/IPO (UPDATE 1), moved, 315 words)

UK outsourcer Serco appoints Rupert Soames as chief executive

LONDON - Embattled British outsourcer Serco names Rupert Soames as its new group chief executive as it focuses on rebuilding a business rocked by high-profile government contract failures and profit warnings. (SERCO/ (UPDATE 2), moving shorly, by Neil Maidment and Li-mei Hoang, 350 words)

Telecoms group Belgacom to cut dividend for next three years

BRUSSELS - Belgian telecoms operator Belgacom is to lower its dividend for the next three years, the company says as it forecast a drop in 2014 core profit. (BELGACOM-EARNINGS/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Robert-Jan Bartunek, 320 words)

Pearson warns 2014 earnings to fall due to US education market

LONDON - British publisher Pearson warns that it expects earnings to fall in 2014 after publishing full-year results within the range of already downgraded forecasts due to the hit from the deteriorating U.S. education market. (PEARSON/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Kate Holton, 340 words)

BA, Vueling power IAG to beat forecast in 2013

LONDON - International Airlines Group says it is on track to meet its 2015 targets after reporting consensus-beating annual profits, boosted by British Airways' strength and as it benefited from newly-acquired low-cost carrier Vueling. (IAG/RESULTS (UPDATE 1), moved, 245 words)

In nosedive, Qantas CEO Joyce may find path to safety

SYDNEY - Whether through error or circumstance, Qantas Airways Ltd's spectacular fall from grace is giving chief executive Alan Joyce his best chance of steering the airline toward long-term salvation. (AUSTRALIA-QANTAS/STRATEGY, moved, by Jane Wardell, 1,150 words)

7-Eleven Malaysia to delay IPO until May at the earliest -sources

KUALA LUMPUR - 7-Eleven Malaysia Holdings Bhd will postpone its initial public offering (IPO) from March until May at the earliest because the convenience store operator is updating its financial accounts, two people with knowledge of the matter say. (7-ELEVEN-IPO/, moved, 400 words)

Freeport says Indonesian unit may need to declare force majeure

JAKARTA - Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold says its Indonesian unit may need to declare force majeure on copper concentrate sales if a dispute with the government over export taxes drags on for a prolonged period. (FREEPORT-INDONESIA/COPPER (UPDATE 2), moved, 500 words)

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