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TOP STORIES

European Commission forecasts lower risk of deflation

BRUSSELS - Euro zone inflation will pick up more slowly than expected in the coming two years due the firming euro and the bloc's sluggish recovery, the European Commission says, adding the risk of deflation remains very low. (EUROZONE-ECONOMY/INFLATION, moved, by Martin Santa, 500 words)

+ See also:

- EU-FRANCE/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Jan Strupczewski, 600 words

China factory activity shrinks, new export orders contract

BEIJING - Activity in China's manufacturing sector contracts for a fourth consecutive month in April, a private survey shows, adding to questions about whether the world's second-largest economy is still losing momentum. (CHINA-ECONOMY/PMI, moved, by China economics team, 450 words)

+ See also:

- CHINA-ECONOMY/REFORM, moved, by Kevin Yao and Tomasz Janowski, 1,000 words

Worries over Ukraine, Chinese economy hit European shares

LONDON - European shares fall as concerns about the spreading conflict in Ukraine and weak Chinese manufacturing data weigh on markets. (MARKETS EUROPE STOCKS/, moved, by Sudip Kar-Gupta, 400 words)

Pfizer sales way off mark as company pursues AstraZeneca

Pfizer reports revenue well below Wall Street expectations on falling sales of generic medicines, underscoring its interest in pursuing a $106 billion bid for rival AstraZeneca to promote new business growth. (PFIZER RESULTS/, moved, 350 words)

+ See also:

- PHARMACEUTICALS SALES, moved, by Ransdell Pierson, 800 words

- ASTRAZENECA-PFIZER/POLITICS, moved, by William James, 520 words

INSIGHT

Apple on medical tech hiring spree: possible iWatch hint

SAN FRANCISCO - Apple Inc is building a team of senior medical technology executives, raising hackles in the biotechnology community and offering a hint of what the iPhone maker may be planning for its widely expected iWatch and other wearable technology. (APPLE-HIRING (INSIGHT), moved, by Christina Farr, 1,100 words)

Chinese billionaire behind grand Nicaragua canal plan

BEIJING - Wang Jing, the enigmatic businessman behind Nicaragua's $50 billion Interoceanic Grand Canal, shrugs off scepticism about how a little-known entrepreneur can be driving a huge transcontinental project, insisting he's not an agent of the Beijing government. (CHINA-CANAL/, moved, by Matthew Miller, 1,600 words)

ECONOMY

EU officials push ahead with alternatives to Russian gas

BRUSSELS - European Union officials push ahead with efforts to cut the bloc's dependence on Russian gas, but the plans are divisive and could stoke tensions over Moscow's annexation of Crimea. (UKRAINE-CRISIS/GAS, expect by 1430 GMT/1030 AM ET, by Barbara Lewis, 700 words)

France puts pig ban on hold until EU meeting

PARIS - France has suspended a unilateral decision to ban imports of pigs and pork-based by-products from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan to protect against a virus pending the outcome of an European Union meeting on Tuesday, the farm ministry says. (FRANCE-PORK/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Sybille de La Hamaide, 340 words)

Portuguese yields dip as Lisbon pledges "clean" bailout exit

LONDON - Portuguese bond yields slip to fresh eight-year lows after Lisbon says it will exit its international bailout later this month without a backup loan, a bold step for a country that two years ago was seen at risk of defaulting. (MARKETS-BONDS-EURO (UPDATE 1), moved, by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, 600 words)

Side deals thwart drive to wean Europe off Russian gas

LONDON - While officials in Brussels call for Europe to reduce its dependency on Russian natural gas and negotiate with Moscow as a bloc, Austria has been quietly bypassing the European Commission to cut its own bilateral deal on building a pipeline. (UKRAINE-CRISIS/GAS-GAZPROM moved, by Henning Gloystein, 1,020 words)

China unleashes yuan bears, but can it cage them again?

SHANGHAI - Beijing's attack on yuan speculators proves extraordinarily successful, so much so that traders no longer see it as a short-term intervention but a deeper market shift that has now gained a self-reinforcing momentum. (CHINA-YUAN, moved, by Pete Sweeney and Lu Jianxin, 900 words)

COMPANIES

As Italy regains favour, banks rush to tap investors

MILAN - Italian banks, including troubled Monte dei Paschi di Siena, are exploiting positive investor sentiment to raise 11 billion euros of new capital as a European asset review is seen forcing them to set aside much higher provisions for bad loans. (ITALY-BANKS, expect by 1400 GMT/10 AM ET, by Lisa Jucca, 600 words)

Alstom battle to upstage Siemens chief's grand strategy

BERLIN - When Joe Kaeser took the reins of German engineering giant Siemens last summer after a boardroom coup, he made clear his priority was closing a yawning profitability gap with rivals such as General Electric. (SIEMENS/, moved, by Noah Barkin and Irene Preisinger, 800 words)

S.Africa's AMCU says platinum strike to continue, no talks JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) says striking members have rejected latest wage offer by the world's three biggest platinum mining companies (SAFRICA-STRIKE/ (UPDATE 2), expect by 1400 GMT/1000 AM ET, by Ed Stoddard, 500 words)

German car sales fall for first time in five months

FRANKFURT - Sales of new cars in Germany, Europe's biggest auto market, decline 3.6 percent in April, the first drop for five months, in a sign that a recent recovery in demand remains fragile. (GERMANY AUTOS/, moved, 300 words)

+ See also:

- MAN-RESULTS (UPDATE 1), moved, 300 words

China's Baosteel in $1 bln bid for Aquila Resources

SYDNEY - Chinese steel giant Baosteel Resources and an Australian partner launch a $1 billion takeover bid for Australian explorer Aquila Resources in a move that can help break the grip of mega iron ore exporters Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. (AQUILA-RSC-BAOSTEEL/ (UPDATE 3), moved, by Sonali Paul, 900 words)