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Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:08am EDT

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TOP STORIES

Ukraine unrest, Gaza keep pressure on shares, bonds steady

LONDON - World markets remain under pressure after the downing of a Malaysian airlines jet at the Ukraine-Russia border, new sanctions on Moscow and unrest in Gaza has sent investors scurrying into defensive assets. (MARKETS-GLOBAL/ (WRAPUP 5), moved, by Marc Jones, 645 words)

+ See also:

- RUSSIA-MARKETS/STOCKS (UPDATE 1), moved, 370 words

UK banks face break-up threat as watchdog plans probe

LONDON - Britain's big banks could be broken up after the country's new competition watchdog sets out plans to launch an 18-month investigation into services for small business customers and personal accounts. (BANKS-BRITAIN/COMPETITION (UPDATE 3), expect by 1000 GMT/6 AM ET, by Steve Slater, 600 words)

Portugal prosecutors investigating Espirito Santo group

LISBON - Portuguese prosecutor's office says it has opened inquiries into the complicated financial situation around the business empire of the founding family of Banco Espirito Santo; various parties affected by unpaid debt by one of family companies prepare lawsuits. (PORTUGAL/BES (UPDATE 1), expect UPDATE 1 by 0900 GMT/5 AM ET, by Andrei Khalip, 400 words)

Shire, AbbVie to announce $53 bln merger - sources

Shire Plc and U.S. drugmaker Abbvie Inc plan to announce a $53 billion merger as soon as Friday, two sources say. (SHIRE-ABBVIE/SALE (UPDATE 1), moved, by Olivia Oran and Soyoung Kim, 270 words)

Ukraine jet crash insurance may be complex, lengthy

NEW YORK - Insurance on the Malaysian airliner brought down over Ukraine is likely to pay out relatively quickly if the cause of the crash is determined, but observers say compensation for the loss of 298 lives and other liability could be complex and lengthy. (UKRAINE-CRISIS/AIRPLANE-INSURANCE (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Alwyn Scott, 500 words)

ECONOMY

China home prices fall again in June, stirring policy hopes

BEIJING - China's new home prices fell in June for a second month and analysts forecast the falls will continue - sparking a surprise rally in Chinese property stocks as investors anticipate imminent government support. (CHINA-PROPERTY/PRICES (UPDATE 3), moved, by Xiaoyi Shao and Kevin Yao, 580 words)

+ See also:

- CHINA-ECONOMY/OUTLOOK (UPDATE 2), moved, 425 words

Developer's zero-interest loans highlight China property risks

HONG KONG - China's third largest property developer, Evergrande Real Estate, has joined smaller peers in offering zero-interest down payment loans, a practice reminiscent of the U.S. housing boom that precipitated the global financial crisis. (CHINA-ECONOMY/EVERGRANDE (PICTURE, GRAPHIC), moved, by Clare Jim, 1,150 words)

With oil sales clipped, Iran faces sliding iron ore exports

SINGAPORE/LONDON - Iran's iron ore industry is in crisis because of low prices, a senior industry official says, with June exports the lowest in nearly two years and ore piling up at ports. (IRONORE-IRAN/, moved, by Manolo Serapio Jr and Maytaal Angel, 850 words)

COMPANIES

BSkyB prepares to roll the dice again with expansion

LONDON/MILAN/FRANKFURT - BSkyB's plan to buy Rupert Murdoch's pay-TV assets in Italy and Germany is a bold bet on long-term growth at the expense of short-term profit, but the pioneering British media firm has pulled off such gambles before. (BSKYB-EUROPE/, moved, by Kate Holton, Danilo Masoni and Harro Ten Wolde, 1,200 words)

Danone raises Africa profile with Brookside dairy deal

PARIS - French food group Danone says it is buying a 40 percent stake in Brookside, East Africa's top dairy producer, as part of plans to expand in new markets amid weak growth in Europe and a slowing economy in China. (DANONE-BROOKSIDE/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Dominique Vidalon, 470 words)

UK's Co-op agrees $1 bln pharmacy sale to Bestway

LONDON - Britain's Co-operative Group has agreed to sell its pharmacy business to the privately owned Bestway Group for 620 million pounds ($1.06 billion), providing funds for it to cut debt and invest in its core businesses, it says. (CO OPERATIVE GRP-PHARMACY/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 345 words)

Ericsson Q2 sales, op profit beat forecast

STOCKHOLM - Mobile telecom gear maker Ericsson posts second-quarter sales and operating income above expectations as sales pick up at its key networks unit thanks to growth in the Middle East, China, the United States and India. (ERICSSON-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 275 words)

Sweden's Swedbank sees better corporate credit demand

STOCKHOLM - Swedish banking group Swedbank says it spies signs of a long-awaited pick up in corporate credit demand as strong economies at home and in the Baltics helped it top profit expectations in the second quarter. (SWEDEN-SWEDBANK/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 375 words)

European recovery on track for Electrolux in Q2

STOCKHOLM - World number two home appliances maker Electrolux says recovery in Europe remains on track as it posts slightly better than expected second-quarter profit and sticks to forecasts for growth in its home region and the United States. (ELECTROLUX/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 320 words)

Slow European recovery takes shine off Volvo Q2 profit rise

STOCKHOLM - Global truck maker Volvo posts a smaller than expected rise in core earnings as a slower than expected pick-up in demand in its biggest market, Europe, has left it with over-capacity in its production. (VOLVO-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by Niklas Pollard and Johannes Hellstrom, 430 words)

Hermes Q2 sales hit by currencies, weakness in Japan

PARIS - Sales growth slowed down at French luxury goods maker Hermes in the second quarter against the first, hit by lower demand in Japan and America and by adverse movements in foreign exchange rates. (HERMES INTL-SALES/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 320 words)

Remy Cointreau's first-quarter sales fall as China weighs

PARIS - French spirits group Remy Cointreau says its first-quarter sales fall 5.7 percent year-on-year, hit by sluggish trading in Western Europe and by a Chinese government crackdown on ostentatious spending that sapped demand for premium cognac. (REMY COINTREAU-SALES/ (UPDATE 2), expect by 1000 GMT/6 AM ET, by Dominique Vidalon, 600 words)

Malaysia bank merger to disrupt old ways of Islamic finance

KUALA LUMPUR/SYDNEY - A proposed three-way merger in Malaysia will create the world's first Islamic bank that will have enough clout to challenge the dominance of conventional, often Western, banks in the industry and influence the way Islamic finance deals are made. (MALAYSIA-BANKS/ISLAMICFINANCE, moved, by Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah and Bernardo Vizcaino, 1,000 words)