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TOP STORIES

German growth strong but business sentiment falls

BERLIN - Strong investment and spendthrift consumers drove the German economy to its fastest growth in three years in the first quarter, but business sentiment fell in May to its lowest level this year. (GERMANY-GDP/ (UPDATE 2), expect by 0900 GMT/5 AM ET, by Annika Breidthardt, 500 words)

Barclays fined $44 mln for gold price setting failures

LONDON - Barclays Plc has been fined 26 million pounds ($43.8 million) for control failings over its setting of gold prices, which occurred just a day after the British bank was fined $450 million for rigging Libor interest rates. (BARCLAYS REGULATIONS/GOLD (UPDATE 1), 250 words)

Investors look for signals from Putin on economy, Ukraine

ST PETERSBURG, Russia - At Russia's answer to Davos, foreign investors look for signals from President Vladimir Putin on how he plans to revive the flagging economy and mend ties strained over the crisis in Ukraine. (RUSSIA-FORUM/PUTIN (TV, PICTURE), expect by 1200 GMT/8 AM ET, by Alexei Anishchuk, 600 words)

Euro hits 3-month low after German data surprise

LONDON - Asian shares hit one-year highs and bond yields are on track to notch up a broad-based rise on the week, but European markets soften after a closely watched measure of German business confidence comes in weaker than expected. (MARKETS-GLOBAL/, moved, by Jamie McGeever, 800 words)

INVESTMENT

Russian bears keep European firms in their sights

LONDON - Russia, once seen as a growth Eldorado for many European firms highly exposed to the country, is now an albatross around their neck as investors worry the Ukraine crisis is set to fester. (MARKETS-EUROPE/STOCKS-RUSSIA, expect by 1000 GMT/6 AM ET, by Atul Prakash, 1,000 words)

Goldman's Cohn takes on Washington to defend commodities

NEW YORK - Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn, who's from Cleveland, are friendly enough that Brown has been known to rib Cohn for abandoning the Cleveland Indians baseball team in favor of the New York Yankees. The two men first met years ago, and Cohn and his family, who are also Democrats, have contributed to Brown's campaigns. (GOLDMAN SACHS-COMMODITIES/ (EXCLUSIVE), moved, by Anna Louie Sussman and Lauren Tara LaCapra, 1315 words)

Israel welcomes tech-hungry Chinese investors

TEL AVIV - China's purchase of a controlling stake in Israel's largest food maker reflects a broader surge in Chinese investment in an economy largely tethered to Western markets. (CHINA-ISRAEL/INVESTMENT, moved, by Tova Cohen, 1,240 words)

SPECIAL REPORT

The power struggle behind China's corruption crackdown

BEIJING/HONG KONG - Liu Han, a flamboyant mining tycoon from China's Sichuan province, is sentenced to death after sensational trial on charges of murder, gun-running, fraud and other offenses. Liu's most serious offence, however, could be political: he was business partners with the son of the China's powerful former domestic security czar, who President Xi Jinping is determined to bring down, multiple sources tell Reuters. (CHINA-CORRUPTION/(SPECIAL REPORT, PICTURE, GRAPHICS), moved, by Benjamin Kang Lim, David Lague and Charlie Zhu; 2,500 words)

+ See also:

- CHINA-CORRUPTION/LIU (PICTURE), moved, by David Lague and Charlie Zhu, 1,400 words

ECONOMY

ECB's Lautenschlaeger says banks should respond over capital

MADRID - The euro zone's top banks should deal with potential capital shortfalls revealed by ongoing financial health checks swiftly to avoid market disruption, European Central Bank Executive Board member Sabine Lautenschlaeger says. (ECB/LAUTENSCHLAEGER, moved, 325 words)

+ See also:

- ECB/CONFERENCE, moved, by Eva Taylor, 455 words

S&P affirms Turkey ratings but warns on inconsistent policy

ISTANBUL - Standard & Poor's affirms its ratings on Turkey but warns its policy environment has become less predictable ahead of two elections and could weigh on the economy's resilience to external shocks and long-term growth. (TURKEY-RATINGS/S&P (UPDATE 1), moved, by Seda Sezer, 360 words)

+ See also:

- SPAIN RATINGS/S&P, moved, 300 words

- GREECE RATINGS/FITCH, moved, 350 words

Japanese inflation to hit 23-year high on sales tax hike

TOKYO - Japan's core consumer prices rose the most in almost 23 years in April after an increase in the nationwide sales tax, a Reuters poll shows. (JAPAN-ECONOMY/PRICES (PREVIEW), moved,

by Stanley White, 550 words)

Energy-rich Gulf goes hungry for gas

DUBAI/KUWAIT - In the space of just 72 hours last week core OPEC oil producer Kuwait lined up $15 billion worth of gas supply from BP and Royal Dutch Shell to help meet soaring demand. (MIDEAST-GAS/, moved, by Rania El Gamal and Sylvia Westall, 825 words)

Afghanistan suffers blow as China halts dollar deals

KABUL - Chinese banks halt their dollar transactions with most Afghan commercial banks, the central bank governor says on Thursday, making it difficult for businesses to pay for imports from one of Afghanistan's biggest trading partners. (AFGHANISTAN BANKING/ (EXCLUSIVE, UPDATE 1), moved, by Jessica Donati, 650 words)

COMPANIES

Dexia: a true exception or a floodgate opener?

BRUSSELS - The exemption of Franco-Belgian Dexia from the full rigours of the stress test on European banks could lead to a series of peers seeking exceptional treatment, undermining the confidence the tests are designed to breathe into the financial sector. (EU-BANKING/STRESSTEST, expect by 1200 GMT/8 AM ET, by Philip Blenkinsop, 500 words)

BlackRock wants new Astra-Pfizer talks at later date-sources

LONDON - BlackRock Inc, AstraZeneca Plc's largest shareholder, wants the drugmaker to resume talks with Pfizer Inc about a potential sale eventually, but backs its decision this week to reject Pfizer's current bid, according to two people familiar with the matter. (ASTRAZENECA-PFIZER/BLACKROCK, moved, by Simon Jessop and Ben Hirschler, 300 words)

GE agrees to extend deadline on Alstom bid to June 23

General Electric Co has agreed to extend its $16.9 billion bid for the power arm of France's Alstom until June 23 from June 2 at the request of the French government, the U.S. company says. (GENERAL ELECTRIC-ALSTOM/EXTENSION (UPDATE 2), moved, 355 words)

HP may cut up to 16,000 more jobs as results disappoint

SAN FRANCISCO - Hewlett-Packard Co plans to cut as many as 16,000 more jobs in a major ramp-up of CEO Meg Whitman's years-long effort to turn around the personal computer maker and relieve pressure on its profit margins. (HP-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 4), moved, by Edwin Chan, 530 words)

UK's Saga shares up slightly in market debut

LONDON - Shares in Saga, a UK travel and insurance company specialising in the over 50s, rise slightly on their debut, giving some relief to its crowd of retail investors after the issue price was cut to the bottom of its preset range. (SAGA-IPO/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Freya Berry, 655 words)

Perfume industry braces for tough new EU rules

PARIS - The $31 billion-a-year perfume industry is bracing itself for tighter EU regulations to be adopted by the end of the year that will include ingredient bans and labelling requirements aimed at protecting consumers from allergies. (EU-PERFUME/ (PICTURE), moved, by Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis, 780 words)

AMF extends Club Med bid closing date to June 6

PARIS - France's market regulator AMF has extended to June 6 the closing date of a bid by China's Fosun and France's Ardian for holidays group Club Mediterranee while it seeks clarity on the intentions of a new top shareholder. (CLUB MED-AMF/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Dominique Vidalon, 360 words)

Swedish cable operator Com Hem to raise $835 mln in IPO

STOCKHOLM - Swedish cable operator Com Hem, owned by private equity firm BC Partners Ltd, says it plans to raise about 5.5 billion crowns ($835 million) in an initial public offering in Stockholm, adding to a string of Nordic IPOs this year. (COMHEM-IPO/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 280 words)

Bookies ready themselves for record World Cup

LONDON/DUBLIN - Tech-savvy gamblers using smartphones and tablets to bet on live match action will help to make next month's soccer World Cup the most lucrative sports event ever for British bookmakers and bring welcome relief from tough market conditions. (SOCCER-WORLD/BETTING, moved, by Keith Weir and Padraic Halpin, 830 words)

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