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  • Dec 18- Consulting and outsourcing company Accenture Plc raised its revenue forecast for fiscal 2015 after contract wins helped the company post better-than-expected first-quarter earnings and revenue. Accenture's shares rose 3.5 percent to $88.25 in premarket trading on Thursday. Accenture, which gets about 56 percent of its revenue from outside North...

  • MOSCOW, Dec 18- Russia's Uralkali, the world's largest potash producer, said flooding at Solikamsk-2 would not affect its overall 2014 output and that it was doing its best to save the damaged mine. With increased capacity utilisation at other mines, Uralkali said it plans to produce 12 million tonnes of potash- a crop nutrient- this year. Uralkali may also consider...

  • LONDON/ HELSINKI, Dec 18- Two of Europe's top three remaining telecommunications equipment companies, Nokia Networks and Alcatel-Lucent, have revived talks on a possible merger, Germany's Manager Magazin reported on Thursday, citing company sources. Shares in Alcatel rose 8 percent following the report. Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia have held on-again,...

  • U.S. jobless claims point to firmer labor market Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 8:30 AM ET

    WASHINGTON, Dec 18- The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting the labor market continued to strengthen. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 289,000 for the week ended Dec. 13, the Labor Department said on Thursday. A Labor Department analyst...

  • MOSCOW, Dec 18- Russian firms are scrambling to repay or restructure the terms of foreign currency loans as the rouble's loss of value and an interest rate hike push up the cost of debt servicing. Many Russian companies increased their share of rouble-denominated debts after the 2008-09 financial crisis yet some big businesses still owe large amounts of...

  • MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf markets surge on stronger oil Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 8:25 AM ET

    *Saudi Arabia's finance minister says state to keep spending. *UAE companies buy back cheap shares. DUBAI, Dec 18- Stock markets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates soared on Thursday after the price of oil rebounded and the Riyadh government eased investors' fears by saying it would continue spending heavily on economic development.

  • LONDON, Dec 18- Shareholders in British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline have approved a planned deal with Switzerland's Novartis, which will see the two pharmaceutical groups trade more than $20 billion of assets. The transaction, which includes GSK buying Novartis' vaccines business, Novartis purchasing GSK's cancer drugs, and the two groups tying up in consumer...

  • LONDON, Dec 18- The Swiss franc tumbled on Thursday after its central bank announced a charge on deposits, wary of a flood of money exiting Russia and likely inflows from the euro zone if the ECB starts full-scale money printing early next year. The jitters of recent weeks calmed a touch as oil rose for a second day, although the pressure was still on Russia's rouble...

  • *Oracle up in premarket after results. NEW YORK, Dec 18- U.S. stock index futures surged on Thursday, putting the S&P 500 on track to extend gains from the prior session, as oil prices showed signs of stabilizing and ahead of data on the labor market. Exxon Mobil rose 1.8 percent to $90.60 and the Select Sector Energy ETF gained 2.2 percent to $78.81 in premarket trading.

  • LONDON, Dec 18- Telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel's NJJ Capital has agreed to buy Swiss mobile operator Orange Switzerland from private equity group Apax Partners for 2.8 billion Swiss francs, Apax said in a statement. NJJ Capital, Niel's private investment fund, has circled Orange Switzerland since 2012 when the business was sold to Apax. NJJ Capital declined to...

  • FOREX-Interest rate cut shocks Swiss franc lower Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 8:00 AM ET

    LONDON, Dec 18- The Swiss franc hit a 28- month trough against the dollar and also fell against the euro on Thursday after the Swiss National Bank said it would introduce negative interest rates to stop further currency appreciation. Against the dollar, the franc fell to 0.9848 francs, a level not seen since August 2012, before recovering to 0.97865 francs, down 0.6...

  • Ford shuts doors of Belgium's Genk plant Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 8:00 AM ET

    *Production to move to Valencia, Spain. GENK, Belgium, Dec 18- Ford Motor Company produced the last car at its plant in Genk, Belgium, on Thursday, closing the site which produced some 14 million vehicles over the past 50 years. The company decided in late 2012 to shut the factory which employed some 4,000 people and to relocate production of new models to Valencia, Spain.

  • *UK retail sales beat forecasts to rise 6.4 pct y/y in Nov. *GRAPHIC: UK retail sales http://link.reuters.com/raz24v. The Office for National Statistics said the volume of goods bought at British stores last month jumped by 6.4 percent from November 2013.

  • ConAgra Foods quarterly sales fall 2 percent Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 7:56 AM ET

    Dec 18- ConAgra Foods Inc reported a 2 percent fall in quarterly net sales, due to weak demand for branded foods such as Hunt's ketchup and Bertolli pastas and frozen meals. Net income attributable to the company fell to $10 million, or 2 cents per share in the second quarter ended Nov. 23, from $248.7 million, or 58 cents per share, a year earlier. Net sales for the company,...

  • *Governor Godwin Emefiele says wants to stop speculators. LAGOS, Dec 18- Nigeria's central bank has barred banks from holding their own funds in dollars in order to end speculative pressure on the ailing naira currency, the governor said on Thursday. Godwin Emefiele told Reuters in a phone interview that he believed the current naira band, set last month, was "...

  • LONDON, Dec 18- An experimental vaccine against shingles from GlaxoSmithKline met its goal in a late-stage study, in a boost for the company's vaccine unit, which is expanding part of its overall healthcare business. The adjuvant includes a component from U.S. biotech firm Agenus, which is entitled to royalties on any future sales. Merck& Co already sells another...

  • *Aim to keep pressure on Russia over Ukraine. BRUSSELS, Dec 18- The European Union banned investment in Crimea on Thursday, halting European help for Russian Black Sea oil and gas exploration and outlawing European cruise ships from calling at Crimean ports. EU leaders, who meet in Brussels later on Thursday, will pledge to keep up pressure on Russia over its role in...

  • US STOCKS-Futures climb as oil rebounds; data on tap Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 | 7:32 AM ET

    *Oracle up in premarket after results. NEW YORK, Dec 18- U.S. stock index futures surged on Thursday, putting the S&P 500 on track to extend gains from the prior session, as oil prices showed hints of stabilizing and ahead of data on the labor market. Exxon Mobil rose 2 percent to $90.84 and the Select Sector Energy ETF gained 1.6 percent to $78.34 in premarket trading.

  • The watchdog announced sanctions totaling 345.2 million euros on cleaning products makers Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Unilever, Procter& Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Sara Lee, SC Johnson and Bolton Solitaire. It announced a further 605.9 million euros of fines relating to personal hygiene products against Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Unilever, Procter& Gamble,...

  • FRANKFURT/ LONDON/ WASHINGTON, Dec 18- The world's major central banks are scrambling to work through the implications of the near halving of the price of oil in the second half of 2014, and they are coming up with very different conclusions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, policymakers looking at robust economic recoveries such as in the United States and Britain are...