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TOP STORIES

China premier warns on slowdown as data fans stimulus talk

BEIJING - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warns the economy faces "severe challenges" in 2014 as weak data fans speculation the central bank will relax monetary policy to support stuttering growth. (CHINA-PARLIAMENT/ (WRAPUP 3, PICTURE, TV), moved, by Benjamin Kang Lim and Kevin Yao, 975 words)

+ See also:

- CHINA-DEFAULT/, moved, by Gabriel Wildau and Pete Sweeney, 1,100 words

Share rebound short lived as China, Ukraine concerns weigh

LONDON - Concerns over growth in China and political tensions in Ukraine take the fizz out of an attempted rally in riskier assets as world shares steady after their biggest falls for nearly two weeks. (MARKETS-GLOBAL/ (WRAPUP 4), moving shortly, by Alistair Smout, 690 words)

Bouygues confirms improved offer for Vivendi's SFR

PARIS - French conglomerate Bouygues says it has improved its offer for Vivendi's mobile unit SFR, taking the cash portion up to 11.3 billion euros ($15.7 billion) from 10.5 billion previously, and reducing the stake Vivendi is left with in the combined telecoms business to 43 percent from 46 percent previously. (SFR-BOUYGUES/, moved, 165 words)

Morrisons warning hits UK supermarket shares

LONDON - British supermarket shares get hit hard after grocer Wm Morrison slashes earnings expectations and says it will invest 1 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) in price cuts over three years in a bid to recover. (MORRISONS-EARNINGS/ (UPDATE 3), expect by 1045 GMT/6.45 AM ET, by James Davey, 700 words)

INVESTMENT

Fickle foreign flows add to problems on home territory

LONDON - A rise in foreign investors in sub-Saharan African markets has made those assets more vulnerable to contagion outflows, but problems on home turf don't help. (AFRICA-INVESTMENT/, expect by 1500 GMT/10 AM ET, by Carolyn Cohn, 850 words)

Metals buyers go shopping as euro rises, copper falls

LONDON - European metals manufacturers haven't had it this good for more than two years: the sharp drop in the price of copper has coincided with the euro's rise versus the dollar and buyers are buying metal forward to take advantage of the cross. (EUROPE-COPPER, expect by 1100 GMT/7 AM ET, by Susan Thomas, 600 words)

+ See also:

- AUSTRALIA-IRONORE/PRICES, moved, by James Regan, 750 words

ECONOMY

ECB ready to act if real interest rates don't fall - Coeure

FRANKFURT - The European Central Bank's forward guidance on interest rates means that real interest rates for borrowers should fall as inflation rises and the ECB is ready to act if this does not happen, ECB policymaker Benoit Coeure says. (ECB/POLICY-COEURE, moved, 300 words)

Ireland makes return to regular debt auctions

DUBLIN - After opportunistically selling bonds over the last two years, Ireland seeks to raise 1 billion euros in 10-year debt and further pre-fund the state for 2015 when it holds its first regular bond auction since 2010. (IRELAND-DEBT/, expect by 1030 GMT/6.30 AM ET, by Padraic Halpin, 500 words)

Reuters money market rates and bond yields poll

BANGALORE - Reuters has surveyed more than 50 strategists on the outlook for money market rates and major sovereign bond yields over the coming year. (MARKETS-BONDS/POLL, expect by 1320 GMT/9.20 AM ET, by Ashrith Rao Doddi, 600 words)

With SPR test, Obama warms up to flex U.S. energy muscle

WASHINGTON - A rare U.S. test of its strategic oil reserves may be just coincidentally timed with the most serious stand-off with Russia in decades, but the underlying message of the move announced on Wednesday leaves little doubt: Prepare for the rise of a new global energy superpower. (USA-CRUDE/RESERVES (ANALYSIS), moved, by Timothy Gardner, 995 words)

NZ raises rates with more tightening seen imminent

WELLINGTON - New Zealand's central bank hikes interest rates and signals an aggressive tightening this year, taking the lead among developed economies in lifting rates off record lows as it tries to quell inflation pressures in an outperforming economy. (NEWZEALAND ECONOMY/RATES (UPDATE 2), moved, by Naomi Tajitsu,800 words)

+ See also:

- AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Wayne Cole, 650 words

COMPANIES

Shell to cut Americas upstream spending by a fifth

LONDON - Royal Dutch Shell says it is cutting spending on American upstream by a fifth this year after losses in resources plays such as shale in yet another step by an oil major to reduce exposure to the booming industry. (SHELL-STRATEGY/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Karolin Schaps and Dmitry Zhdannikov, 335 words)

British insurers braced for $1.8 bln in weather claims

LONDON - A series of violent storms and widespread flooding in Britain since the start of the year is likely to cost insurers more than 1 billion pounds, the industry's trade body says. (INSURANCE-FLOODS/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 250 words)

Generali doubles dividend after 2013 profit increase

MILAN - Generali proposes to more than double its dividend after posting the Italian insurer's highest full-year net profit in six years. (GENERALI/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 280 words)

Lufthansa confident on restructuring as profit beats

FRANKFURT - Lufthansa, Germany's largest airline, says it is confident of reaching the goals set out under a wide-ranging restructuring programme as it reports better-than-expected quarterly profit and restores its dividend payout. (LUFTHANSA-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2), expect by 1030 GMT/6.30 AM ET, by Victoria Bryan, 570 words)

Allergy drug firm Circassia prices London listing at top

LONDON - British allergy treatment firm Circassia prices its initial public share offer at the top of its price range, in the biggest biotech debut on the London market for years. (CIRCASSIA PHARMA-IPO (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Freya Berry, 360 words)

+ See also:

- ISS-IPO/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Teis Jensen, 400 words

K+S anticipates 2014 profit drop on lower potash prices

FRANKFURT - German potash miner K+S says it is expecting operating earnings to decline for a third year, hurt by lower prices of the fertiliser ingredient that resulted from the break-up of an export alliance between two larger rivals. (K+S-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2), expect by 1015 GMT/6.15 AM ET, by Ludwig Burger, 350 words)

Eurotunnel sees freight, UK recovery lifting traffic, profit

PARIS - Eurotunnel, the operator of the Channel Tunnel, hikes its dividend and forecasts a rise in profit this year and next, driven by strong freight traffic and a recovery in the UK. (EUROTUNNEL-RESULTS/, moved, by James Regan, 465 words)

Ecobank "grew too fast", says top shareholder

JOHANNESBURG - Pan-African lender Ecobank grew too fast in a short space of time, its biggest shareholder says, potentially signalling a slowdown in the rapid expansion that has taken the financial institution to 35 countries. (ECOBANK-PIC/, moved, by Tosin Sulaiman and Tiisetso Motsoeneng, 550 words)

Allianz warns of new insurance risks from super-sized ships

LONDON - The rise of super-sized container vessels and the opening up of potentially hazardous routes through once-frozen Arctic waters pose the biggest new challenges to ships and their insurers, a report says. (ALLIANZ/SHIPPING, moved, 300 words)

Hochtief installs own CEO at Leighton, sweetens offer

SYDNEY - German builder Hochtief AG has installs its chief executive at the helm of majority-owned Leighton Holdings Ltd and claim more seats in the boardroom, cementing its grip on the Australian company that supplies much of its profit. (AUSTRALIA-LEIGHTON HLDGS/HOCHTIEF AG (UPDATE 1), moved, by Maggie Lu Yueyang, 700 words)

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