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  • *US, Cuba have agreed to restore diplomatic ties. GENEVA, Dec 18- The European Union, which once launched a lawsuit to try to break the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, said on Thursday it still wanted the blockade lifted but it was prepared to wait. Obama has wide executive powers to further open up to Cuba, and the White House wants to see the trade embargo lifted by the time...

  • Jeb Bush to step down from Barclays Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 12:54 PM ET

    WASHINGTON— Jeb Bush is stepping down from an advisory role with British banking giant Barclays. A Bush spokesman said Thursday that the former Florida governor would resign his senior advisor position at the end of the year. He raised more than $60 million as chairman and manager of a new private equity fund as recently as September.

  • WASHINGTON, Dec 18- The United States was considering possible options on Thursday in response to a major cyber attack on Sony Pictures blamed on North Korea, amid calls for tougher sanctions on Pyongyang to cut it off from the global banking system. Hackers who said they were incensed by a film on the fictional assassination of North Korea's leader attacked...

  • Judge appoints board to sort out polygamous homes Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 12:34 PM ET

    SALT LAKE CITY— A Utah judge has finally appointed a board of trustees to sort out the redistribution of more than 700 homes in a polygamous community on the Utah- Arizona border where Warren Jeffs' sect is based. State Judge Denise Lindberg ruled Wednesday the five-person board still must get final approval from the court when deciding who should get which homes.

  • NEW YORK, Dec 18- Pacific Investment Management Co expects global growth to accelerate in 2015 to around 2.75 percent from around plus 2.5 percent this year, on expectations that supply-driven declines in oil prices were fundamentally positive, the bond giant said on Thursday in its year-end Cyclical Forum outlook report. Pimco said its view that the outlook...

  • DAVENPORT, Iowa, Dec 18- Life-long Republican Bob Shelley neatly folds his newspaper and uses it as a coaster, placing his coffee mug over a photo of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who just announced he will explore a bid for the White House in 2016.. In Iowa, which holds the first presidential nominating contest in early 2016, voters are used to hearing out...

  • Merck buys Swiss biotech with promising cancer drug Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 12:16 PM ET

    KENILWORTH, N.J.— Drugmaker Merck says it's bought a Swiss biotech company developing cancer drugs as part of its strategy to be a top player in cancer, one of the hottest pharmaceutical research areas. Merck& Co., based in Kenilworth, New Jersey, will pay up to $110 million upfront to OncoEthix. The privately held company could receive further payments of up to $265...

  • EU grain to enjoy spoils of Russian export curbs Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 12:05 PM ET

    *Australia, Argentina, Canada, Ukraine could also benefit. PARIS, Dec 18- European Union grain exporters will be the main beneficiaries of Russia's pullback from international grain markets as Moscow races to cool domestic prices in the face of economic crisis, analysts and traders said. "At current prices, it's clearly European wheat that will benefit," Andree...

  • NEW YORK, Dec 18- Global crude prices fell again on Thursday, a day after a short-covering rally, as traders placed new bets that the market would resume a six-month rout on worries about a supply glut. But in late morning trade in New York, benchmark Brent and U.S. crude fell more than $1 a barrel to session lows. "We're continuing to search for a bottom, and might even see...

  • Apple CEO donating to gay rights campaign in South Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 12:00 PM ET

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— Apple chief executive Tim Cook, the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 1,000 company, is donating money to help fund a gay rights initiative in his native Alabama and two other Southern states, organizers said Thursday. Organizers said it would help fund a three-year, $8.5 million campaign launched in April in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.

  • Amazon launches 1-hour shipping in Manhattan Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 11:58 AM ET

    SEATTLE— Amazon says it is offering one-hour delivery of thousands of basic products to its Prime customers in Manhattan. The online retail giant rolled out the service, known as Prime Now, to select areas of Manhattan on Thursday. Seattle- based Amazon says it hopes to roll the service out to additional cities in 2015..

  • US stocks move higher, building on Fed gains Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 11:57 AM ET

    NEW YORK— The U.S. stock market is moving sharply higher, building on gains from the day before after the Federal Reserve indicated it was in no rush to raise interest rates. Oracle led a rally in technology shares in midday trading Thursday after the business software maker reported earnings that were better than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average rose...

  • NEW YORK, Dec 18- Pacific Investment Management Co expects global growth to accelerate in 2015 to around 2.75 percent from around plus 2.5 percent this year, on expectations that supply-driven declines in oil prices were fundamentally positive, the bond giant said on Thursday in its year-end Cyclical Forum outlook report. Pimco said its view that the outlook...

  • NEW YORK, Dec 18- There are plenty of lists proclaiming "The Best Places to Retire." Designed by real estate information company Zillow.com for Reuters, it incorporates reams of data on more than 15,000 locales across the United States. For instance, if you find all of the screening categories to be very important, and you are looking for a reasonably-priced home,...

  • COLUMN-Russia Sanctions: Beware the Blowback Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 11:40 AM ET

    WASHINGTON, Dec 18-- In recent days, the U.S. Congress has moved aggressively to increase the economic pain inflicted on Russia in punishment for its brazen destabilization of eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The desire to inflict more economic difficulty on Russia is understandable. By imposing pain on Russia, the United States and the European Union can try to force...

  • Uber driver in Boston charged with kidnapping and rape Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 11:39 AM ET

    Dec 18- A driver for ride-sharing company Uber in Boston was charged with the kidnapping and rape of a woman who used the service earlier this month. The driver, Alejandro Done, pleaded not guilty in Cambridge District Court on Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported. Uber has been banned in several cities in India following an alleged rape of a passenger who booked...

  • Dec 18- Kraft Foods Group Inc on Thursday said Tony Vernon would retire as chief executive officer later this month, with Chairman John Cahill succeeding him as the company tries to accelerate its growth. Vernon, who has headed the company since it was spun off from Mondelez International Inc in October 2012, has focused on expanding its reach among growing...

  • WASHINGTON, Dec 18- The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting the labor market continued to strengthen. "The economy continues to run hard as it finishes out the year," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits...

  • Dec 18- Ocwen Financial Corp is facing scrutiny from New York state and the federal government over whether the mortgage servicer improperly stalled short sales of property to collect more fees, Bloomberg reported, citing sources. The New York Department of Financial Services and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are looking into whether Ocwen...

  • New York regulator lays out tweaks to bitcoin rules Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 11:30 AM ET

    WASHINGTON, Dec 18- New York state plans to soften proposed rules for virtual currencies such as bitcoin, its banking regulator said on Thursday, after receiving a round of public comments. Start-up companies dealing in the budding technology could get a two-year partial waiver from complying with the full set of rules to help them continue their business, New...