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TOP STORIES

Banks in Chinese city show stacks of cash to reassure depositors

YANCHENG, China - Rural banks in China's eastern city of Yancheng stack piles of cash in plain view behind teller windows to calm depositors queuing at bank branches for a third straight day following rumours that they had run out of cash. (CHINA-BANKING/ (UPDATE 2, PICTURE), moved, by John Ruwitch, 690 words)

Shares hit 2-wk highs on upbeat U.S. data, Ukraine calm

LONDON - European and Asian shares climb to two-week highs, with investor confidence receiving a welcome boost from upbeat U.S. data, talk of fresh central bank stimulus and easing concerns over the Ukraine crisis. (MARKETS-GLOBAL/(WRAPUP 4), moving shortly, By Marc Jones, 500 words)

UK sells 4.2 bln stg of shares in Lloyds

LONDON - Britain sold 4.2 billion pounds ($6.9 billion) of shares in Lloyds Banking Group to cut its stake in the country's largest retail bank to under 25 percent and put it on course for a complete exit in the next year at a profit. (BRITAIN-LLOYDS BANKING/ (UPDATE 2), expect by 1000 GMT/6 AM ET, by Steve Slater, 590 words)

+ See also:

- LLOYD'S/, moved, 150 words

Fed's Bullard says U.S. jobless rate expected to fall below 6 pct this year

HONG KONG - The U.S. unemployment rate will fall below 6 percent by the end of this year, a Federal Reserve official said on Wednesday, offering a bullish view on the country's economy after central bank comments sent shock waves through financial markets last week. (USA-FED/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Michael Flaherty, 550 words)

EMERGING MARKETS

Sovereign funds wary of hidden emerging market exposure: Templeton

LONDON - Sovereign wealth funds see emerging market turbulence as a long term buying opportunity, but are wary of excessive exposure via some of their Western holdings such as luxury goods makers, a top investment official at Franklin Templeton says. (SOVEREIGNFUNDS-TEMPLETON/ (INTERVIEW), moved, by Natsuko Waki, 660 words)

ECONOMY

World Bank warns of contraction in Russia

MOSCOW - Russia's economy could contract by 1.8 percent in gross domestic product (GDP) terms this year if the crisis following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea deepens, the World Bank says. (RUSSIA ECONOMY/WORLDBANK, moved, by Lidia Kelly, 300 words)

Bank of Spain sees 2014 GDP up 1.2 percent

MADRID - The Bank of Spain says economic data so far this year points to a continuation of a gradual economic recovery, with gross domestic product (GDP) seen growing 1.2 percent in 2014. (SPAIN ECONOMY/, moved, 100 words)

German consumer mood holds steady but Crimea crisis a dark cloud

BERLIN - German consumer morale held steady going into April as shoppers were more upbeat about the outlook for Europe's largest economy but their mood could worsen if the Crimea crisis spreads and leads to tougher sanctions from the West, GfK says. (GERMANY-GFK/, moved, by Michelle Martin, 415 words)

China's plan for global yuan hits speed bumps

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE - Turbulence in Chinese financial markets, reflecting growing worries about investing in the country's assets, could slow the yuan's rapid emergence as a major international currency. (CHINA-CURRENCY/, moved, by Michelle Chen and Saeed Azhar, 900 words)

+ See also:

- AUSTRALIA-CENBANK/RENMINBI (UPDATE 1), moved, by Wayne Cole, 500 words

COMPANIES

Swiss set to make British ex-UBS banker head of financial regulator

ZURICH - The Swiss government is set to appoint British-born former banker Mark Branson as the first non-Swiss national to head its financial regulator, two sources say, just as the body probes currency markets and prepares for a major review of big banks. (FINMA/BRANSON (UPDATE 2), expect by 1400 GMT/10 AM ET, by Katharina Bart, 1,000 words)

Standard Life ramps up fund business with Ignis acquisition

LONDON - Standard Life has bought Ignis Asset Management for 390 million pounds ($643.7 million), increasing the amount of money it manages by one third as it shifts its business to fund management from insurance. (IGNIS-STANDARD LIFE/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Simon Jessop and Chris Vellacott, 400 words)

UK energy firm SSE to split retail and wholesale arms

LONDON - British utility SSE is to split its wholesale and retail divisions and freeze prices in a drive to improve transparency following a backlash over how energy companies set their bills. (SSE/RESTRUCTURING (UPDATE 1), moved, 260 words)

UK's Carpetright warns on profit again as sales slow

LONDON - Carpetright, Britain's biggest floor coverings retailer, has warned on profit for the third time in almost six months, saying sales have slowed and it has yet to see any boost from an improving housing market. (CARPETRIGHT-PROFIT/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Neil Maidment, 415 words)

Invisible men lined up as heirs at commodity traders

NEW YORK - Abrupt leadership changes at commodity traders Trafigura and Gunvor over the past week have put a sharp light on an industry-wide challenge: shifting oversight from a legion of legendary, aging leaders to a new generation. (TRADERS-LEADERS/, moved, by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Jonathan Leff, 1,090 words)

+ See also:

- TRAFIGURA-DAUPHIN/SUCCESSOR (NEWSMAKER, PICTURE), moved, by Josephine Mason, 1,100 words

Veneto Banca to tap investors for 500 mln euros - report

MILAN - Veneto Banca, one of 15 Italian banks under scrutiny in a euro zone-wide health check, will issue shares for 500 million euros ($687 million) and convert 350 million euros worth of bonds into stock to boost its capital base, the bank's top executive says. (VENETOBANCA/CAPITAL, moved, 380 words)

UK may toughen executive pay rules if firms do not act -minister

LONDON - The British government may introduce tougher rules on executive pay if companies and their investors fail to restore the link with performance, Business Secretary Vince Cable will say on Wednesday. (BRITAIN-EXECUTIVEPAY/, moved, 320 words)

+ See also:

- BRITAIN-BOARDROOM/WOMEN, moved, by Belinda Goldsmith, 565 words

Fonterra undeterred by earnings hit as it pushes further into China

WELLINGTON - Fonterra, the world's largest dairy exporter, says a steep hit to its first-half earnings won't stop it from marketing more of its own-brand milk products in China and expand its food services business in the fast-growing market. (FONTERRA-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2, PICTURE), moved, by Naomi Tajitsu, 800 words)

Hyundai Motor eyes major expansion with new plant in China

SEOUL - Hyundai Motor Co plans to build its fourth plant in China for about 1 trillion won ($926.48 million) and start production in early 2016, a source says, in its first major overseas expansion in more than two years. (HYUNDAI-PLANT/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Hyunjoo Jin, 680 words)

Spooked by defaults, China banks begin retreat from risk

BEIJING - Some of China's struggling firms are finally getting the reception that regulators have been hoping for -- a cold shoulder from banks in the form of smaller and costlier loans. (CHINA-DEBT/, moved, by Fayen Wong and Matthew Miller, 1,000 words)

Facebook to buy virtual reality goggles maker for $2 bln

SAN FRANCISCO - Facebook Inc will acquire two-year-old Oculus VR Inc, a maker of virtual-reality glasses for gaming, for $2 billion, buying its way into the fast-growing wearable devices arena with its first-ever hardware deal. (FACEBOOK-ACQUISITION/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Alexei Oreskovic and Malathi Nayak, 545 words)

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