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  • *For poll data see EQUITYPOLL1. NEW YORK, March 20- Global tensions and reduced stimulus from the Federal Reserve will keep U.S. stock market gains modest for the rest of 2014, a Reuters poll found. "We're in a little bit of a negative risk-reward dynamic for equities," said Barry Knapp, managing director of equity research at Barclays Capital in New York.

  • *Blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 seen adding 7.3 pct by end-2014. *Germany's DAX seen trailing, Italy's FTSE MIB surging. Germany's DAX will underperform, however, hurt in part by its strong exposure to troubled emerging markets, which have seen big swings in the value of their currencies.

  • *FTSE 100 index to end 2014 at record high of 7,065. The poll, conducted over the past week, showed the blue-chip FTSE 100 index will climb to a new life-time high of 7,065 points by the end of 2014, over 7 percent higher than Wednesday's close of 6,573 points. By the middle of 2014, the FTSE 100 index is forecast to reach 6,820 points.

  • March 20- Online home-rental marketplace Airbnb Inc is in advanced talks with private equity firms including TPG Capital Management LP to raise funds that would value the company at about $10 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

  • HOLLYWOOD, Fla., March 20- U.S. blacklistings over Russia's annexation of Crimea may spark a sanctions exchange that would leave banks scrambling to assess their exposure to targeted parties and to uncover murky financial linkages, according to industry officials.

  • FACTBOX-Key facts about Europe's banking union Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 | 10:09 AM ET

    BRUSSELS, March 20- Europe struck a deal on Thursday to complete a banking union with an agency to shut failing euro zone banks, but there will be no joint backstop for a fund to pay the costs of closures. *Banking union was shaped in part by Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, but it falls short of his vision.

  • Philly Fed factory activity index jumps in March Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 | 10:09 AM ET

    NEW YORK, March 20- Factory activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region expanded far more than expected in March, a survey showed on Thursday. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its business activity index rose to 9.0 in March from -6.3 in February, topping economists' expectations for 3.8, according to a Reuters poll.

  • UPDATE 5-Brent crude eases on U.S. rate rise expectations Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 | 10:04 AM ET

    *U.S. stockpiles rise more than expected; fall at Cushing hub. LONDON, March 20- Brent crude oil eased on Thursday after the Federal Reserve indicated the U.S. central bank could end its stimulus programme and raise interest rates sooner than expected. Brent was down 11 cents at $105.74 a barrel by 1357 GMT, after settling 94 cents lower on Wednesday.

  • U.S. existing home sales edge down in February Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 | 10:00 AM ET

    WASHINGTON, March 20- U.S. home resales dropped slightly in February to a 19 month-low as cold weather and a shortage of homes for sale continued to sideline potential buyers.

  • BERLIN, March 20- On a Sunday in early March, a day after Vladimir Putin won parliamentary backing for an invasion of Ukraine, Angela Merkel called him to demand an explanation. Merkel, in turn, had been preaching caution on punishing Russia in her talks with the United States, hopeful that Putin would eventually back down and accept proposals to ease the crisis.

  • NEW YORK, March 20- U.S. stocks dipped at the open on Thursday as investors continued to digest comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who raised the specter of an earlier-than-expected hike in interest rates.

  • March 20- Private equity and asset management firm Apollo Global Management LLC said Marc Spilker would step down as president and member of the executive committee. Spilker, 49, graduated with degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

  • *VW spending 840 mln euros in Russia 2013-15. HANOVER, Germany, March 20- Germany's Volkswagen will stick with ambitious expansion plans in Russia even as European leaders consider sanctions over the country's seizure of Crimea, the carmaker's chief executive said.

  • *Novartis CEO: higher bar a major hurdle for small firms. BASEL, Switzerland, March 20- Recent manufacturing problems in India suggest some makers of generic drugs will struggle to compete in the face of a rising quality bar, pointing to a likely a shake-out in the low-cost sector, according to Novartis.

  • *Ukraine in view as Russia seizes naval bases. *Lennar Corp, Jabil Circuit both rise after results. NEW YORK, March 20- U.S. stock index futures pointed to a modestly lower open on Thursday as investors continued to digest comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who raised the specter of an earlier-than-expected rate hike.

  • SAN FRANCISCO, March 20- A new smarpthone app developed by the Tribune Co will read aloud a personalized "playlist" of news articles along with weather and traffic updates, as the media organization looks for new ways to reach consumers.

  • Apollo Global President Marc Spilker to step down Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 | 8:56 AM ET

    March 20- Private equity and asset management firm Apollo Global Management LLC said Marc Spilker will step down as president and member of the executive committee.

  • *Novartis reviewing fate of animal health, vaccines and OTC units. BASEL, Switzerland, March 20- Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez is taking a hard look at the drugmaker's smaller businesses as he reshapes the company for what he expects to be a "brutal" new era in healthcare spending.

  • UPDATE 2-Europe strikes deal to complete banking union Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 | 8:44 AM ET

    BRUSSELS, March 20- European policymakers agreed on Thursday to complete a banking union with an agency to shut failing euro zone banks, but there will be no joint backstop for a fund to pay the costs of closures. It completes the second pillar of banking union, starting at the end of the year when the European Central Bank takes over as watchdog.

  • *Russia issues passports in Crimea, will plug deficit. "I am certain the passage of these documents will be a turning point in the fate of the multi-ethnic peoples of Crimea and Russia, who are linked by the close ties of historical solidarity," Lavrov told the State Duma.