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TOP STORIES

Major economies end first quarter on weaker note

LONDON/BEIJING - Major economies in Asia and Europe finish the first quarter on a weaker note, with key manufacturing surveys fuelling expectations policymakers may be forced to act in coming months to prop up faltering growth. (GLOBAL-WRAP/PMI (WRAPUP 2), moved, by Jonathan Cable and Adam Rose, 860 words)

Reassuring Fed gets markets off to solid Q2 start

LONDON - Reassuring remarks by the head of the Federal Reserve and stronger-looking emerging markets help keep the recent rally in world stocks and risk assets alive, as the second quarter got off to a solid start. (MARKETS-GLOBAL/WRAPUP 5, moving shortly, by Marc Jones, 860 words)

Hong Kong, New Zealand probe banks for FX manipulation

HONG KONG - Regulators in Hong Kong and New Zealand say that they are investigating banks' conduct in the foreign exchange market as part of an investigation tied to the global probe into FX markets. (HONGKONGFOREX/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Rachel Armstrong, 640 words)

Low inflation to spark debate, but ECB seen holding steady

FRANKFURT - The European Central Bank is not expected to announce any new measures on Thursday to boost the euro zone economy, although inflation dropping close to zero could well prompt active discussion about stimulus. (ECB/RATES (PREVIEW), moved, by Eva Taylor, 880 words)

+ See also:

- EUROZONE-INFLATION/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Martin Santa, 425 words

ECONOMY

Swift Greek market comeback could have game-changing powers

LONDON - Greece could be on the verge of making one of the fastest market comebacks of a defaulted sovereign ever recorded. (GREECE-MARKETS/BONDS, moved, by Marius Zaharia, 1,000 words)

Russia tightens squeeze on Ukraine with gas price rise

MOSCOW - Russian natural gas producer Gazprom announces a more than 40 percent increase in the price of gas for Ukraine, stepping up economic pressure on Kiev in its crisis in relations with Moscow. (UKRAINE-CRISIS/GAS (UPDATE 2, PICTURE), moved, by Vladimir Soldatkin, 600 words)

U.S. small business borrowing slows in February

WASHINGTON - U.S. small businesses borrowing hit a five month low in February, in the latest indication of slower economic growth in the first quarter after an unusually harsh winter. (USA-ECONOMY/LENDING, moved, 270 words)

UK's Osborne "profoundly concerned" about insurance leak

LONDON - British finance minister George Osborne says he is "profoundly concerned" about the way news of a review of Britain's insurance sector caused the share price of insurance firms to fall sharply last week. (BRITAIN-REGULATOR/OSBORNE (UPDATE 1), moved, 400 words)

+ See also:

- BRITAIN-BOE/FPC, moved, 290 words

Tax hike hurts Japan business mood more than in 1997 - BOJ

TOKYO - Japanese business sentiment barely improves in the three months ending March and the corporate outlook is now considerably weaker than when Japan last raised its sales tax in 1997, the Bank of Japan's tankan survey shows. (JAPAN-ECONOMY/TANKAN (UPDATE 2), moved, by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto, 750 words)

+ See also:

- JAPAN-TAX/DIAPERS, moved, by Ayai Tomisawa, 700 words

China's Xi seeks peace in Europe but side-steps Ukraine

BRUGES, Belgium - President Xi Jinping told Europe on Tuesday that China was a close ally committed to European peace and prosperity although he remained reluctant to directly criticise Russia for its annexation of Crimea. (EU-CHINA/ (UPDATE 1), expect by 1300 GMT/9 AM ET, by Robin Emmott, 700 words)

COMPANIES

GM enters harsh spotlight as U.S. Congress hearings begin

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Congress will try to establish who is to blame for at least 13 auto-related deaths over the past decade, as public hearings are launched on General Motors Co's slow response to defective ignition switches in cars. (GM-RECALL/CONGRESS, moved, by Richard Cowan, 800 words)

Weir Group proposes tie-up with Finland's Metso

HELSINKI/LONDON - Scottish engineering company Weir Group has approaches Finnish rival Metso over a possible $5 billion combination as it tries to expand its core mining division to match its rapid growth in oil and gas. (WEIR GROUP-METSO/ (UPDATE 3), moved, by Jussi Rosendahl and Sophie Sassard, 715 words)

Britain's Royal Mail sale short-changed taxpayers - watchdog

LONDON - Britain sold off Royal Mail too cheaply, the spending watchdog says, prompting the main opposition Labour party to accuse Prime Minister David Cameron's government of failing to look after the interests of taxpayers. (BRITAIN-ROYALMAIL/NAO (UPDATE 1), moved, by Neil Maidment, 850 words)

Apple again seeks decisive U.S. court ruling against Samsung

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Apple and Samsung return to federal court for opening statements in their latest patent battle, with the iPhone maker expected to present more detailed evidence in its attempt to win a U.S. ban on sales of several Samsung smartphones. (APPLE-SAMSUNG/TRIAL, moved, by Dan Levine, 410 words)

+ See also:

- APPLE-IPHONE/DISPLAY (PICTURE), moved, by Reiji Murai, 400 words

BHP Billiton weighs spin-off of unloved assets

MELBOURNE - BHP Billiton is weighing a range of options to simplify its portfolio of assets, including a possible spin-off of unwanted businesses such as aluminium and nickel into a separate company, the top global miner says. (AUSTRALIA-BHPBILLITON/PORTFOLIO (UPDATE 1), moved, by Sonali Paul, 450 words)

Sandvik's SMS must retool production to stay on top - boss

GIMO, Sweden - Swedish Sandvik's Machining Solutions business, the world's top maker of metal cutting tools, needs to make its production more flexible and boost product development to stay ahead of growing competition, its top executive says. (SANDVIK (INTERVIEW), moved, by Johannes Hellstrom, 630 words)

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