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  • TEL AVIV, July 31- Diamonds are a girl's best friend- but only if they are natural. Global diamond jewelry sales are worth more than $72 billion a year, according to the World Diamond Council, and jewelers like Tiffany and diamond miners led by De Beers stress that a jewel mined at great expense, and often with great risk, is infinitely more valuable than one made by man.

  • Exxon profit surges, but production slips Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 | 8:45 AM ET

    NEW YORK— Exxon Mobil Corp. net income rose 28 percent in the second quarter on a sale of Asian assets and higher oil prices, but oil and gas production slipped 6 percent, disappointing analysts. On a per-share basis, Exxon earned $2.05, up from $1.55 last year.

  • July 31- MasterCard Inc, the world's second-largest debit and credit card company, posted a better-than-expected 10 percent rise in quarterly profit, as more customers used its cards to make purchases. MasterCard shares were up 2.8 percent at $78 in trading before the bell on Thursday.

  • *Coming up: U.S. Weekly jobless claims at 1230 GMT. LONDON, July 31- Gold held below $1,300 an ounce on Thursday and was set for its second monthly drop in three as optimism over the U.S. economy curbed demand, offsetting a message from the Federal Reserve it is in no rush to raise interest rates.

  • *Almost quarter of a million refugees in UN's Gaza shelters. *Gaza fighting in its fourth week. GAZA/ JERUSALEM, July 31- The United Nations in Gaza is struggling to withstand a flood of almost a quarter of a million refugees into shelters that have repeatedly come under Israeli fire.

  • SINGAPORE, July 31- Part of a Kurdish oil cargo has been offloaded from a Greek-managed tanker into another tanker in the South China Sea, but mystery surrounds the identity of the buyer and where the two tankers are headed. Iraqi Kurdistan is locked in a bitter legal and diplomatic struggle with Baghdad over international oil sales.

  • *Coming up: U.S. Weekly jobless claims at 1230 GMT. LONDON, July 31- Gold held below $1,300 an ounce on Thursday and was set for its second monthly drop in three as optimism over the U.S. economy curbed demand, offsetting a message from the Federal Reserve it is in no rush to raise interest rates. Spot gold was flat at $1,295.10 an ounce by 1021 GMT.

  • *Netanyahu presses assault, sends envoys to Cairo. *U.N. outraged at refugee deaths at Gaza shelter.

  • World stocks drift after US Fed stays course Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 | 4:45 AM ET

    MUMBAI, India— Global stock markets were uninspired by an upbeat report on the U.S. economy, with most drifting lower Thursday after the U.S. KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 1.3 percent to 9,471.55. Britain's FTSE 100 eased 0.3 percent to 6,755.91 and France's CAC dropped 1.1 percent to 4,265.33.

  • *OPEC oil output rises in July from June- Reuters survey. LONDON, July 31- Brent crude slipped below $106 a barrel on Thursday as higher OPEC output and disappointing demand in the United States outweighed tensions in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine.

  • *Asia's Iran imports rise 31 pct y/y to 1 mln bpd in June. TOKYO, July 31- Iran's biggest clients took in a quarter more oil in the first six months of 2014 than in the same period of last year, with China and India holding to the higher volumes they started after the agreement that relaxed Western sanctions on Tehran.

  • *OPEC oil output rises in July from June- Reuters survey. SINGAPORE, July 31- Brent crude slipped towards $106 a barrel on Thursday and was set to post its biggest monthly loss in more than a year as higher OPEC output and disappointing demand in the United States outweighed tensions in the Middle East and Africa.

  • Brent slips toward $106 as US fuel demand disappoints Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 | 12:14 AM ET

    *OPEC oil output rises in July from June- Reuters survey. SINGAPORE, July 31- Brent crude slipped towards $106 a barrel on Thursday and was set to post its biggest monthly loss in more than a year as higher OPEC output and disappointing demand in the United States outweighed tensions in the Middle East and Africa.

  • TOKYO, July 31- The dollar stayed strong and U.S. bond yields held firm on Thursday after data showed solid U.S. economic growth, even as the Federal Reserve repeated its message that it is in no hurry to raise interest rates. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was almost flat in early trade.

  • TOKYO, July 31- U.S. crude oil futures fell under $100 in early Thursday trade, putting the contract on course for its steepest monthly slide in nine months, as concerns over weak demand rose while fears over supply shortages in the Middle East and North Africa waned.

  • NEW YORK, July 30- Chemicals firm LyondellBasell, owned by Ukraine- born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, appears to be the mystery American buyer of two cargoes of Kurdish crude delivered in May, according to U.S. government data and industry sources.

  • GAZA STRIP, July 30- Israeli Colonel Tomer was literally tipped off to the tunnel snaking under a Palestinian village when the tank-churned earth gave way to the weight of one of his behemoth bulldozers' treads.

  • Congress cooperates _ and fights _ as recess nears Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 | 4:39 PM ET

    WASHINGTON— Eager to begin a monthlong break, Congress leavened its customary heavy partisanship on Wednesday with a pinch of compromise, advancing legislation to repair the deeply troubled Department of Veterans Affairs and working to clear funds for highway construction at home and missile defense in Israel.

  • *Central bank reaffirms no rush to raise interest rates. NEW YORK/ LONDON, July 30- Gold futures ended lower on Wednesday, but traders largely shrugged off a statement from the Federal Reserve hinting the U.S. central bank was in no rush to hike interest rates, which would reduce appetite for the precious metal.

  • *Hamas vows to fight on until Gaza blockades lifted. GAZA/ JERUSALEM, July 30- Israeli shelling killed at least 15 Palestinians sheltering in a U.N.-run school and another 17 near a street market on Wednesday, Gaza's Health Ministry said, with no ceasefire in sight after more than three weeks of fighting.