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TORONTO, Feb 13- Manulife Financial Corp on Thursday reported a 20 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit as Canada's largest life insurer booked a C $350 million gain on the sale of its Taiwan insurance business last year.
BEIRUT, Feb 13- A humanitarian ceasefire in the Syrian city of Homs was extended on Thursday for three more days, the city's governor told Reuters. "The ceasefire has been extended for an additional three days, starting from today, to allow the evacuation of the remaining civilians," Talal al-Barazi, the governor, said by telephone.
Feb 13- Canadian oil and gas producer Cenovus Energy Inc reported a smaller fourth-quarter net loss, helped by higher production at its Christina Lake oil sands project in northern Alberta. The company's net loss narrowed to C $58 million, or 8 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31 from C $117 million, or 15 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.
*Investors sceptical over China growth despite data. LONDON, Feb 13- Copper prices eased on Thursday with concerns about a slowing Chinese economy resurfacing as investors reassessed the previous day's buoyant Chinese trade data and its possible impact on demand. Copper has traded in a narrow range since August.
Feb 13- Encana Corp, Canada's largest natural gas producer, reported a bigger quarterly loss, partly due to higher administrative expenses related to restructuring.
HUMANITARIAN CEASEFIRE IN SYRIAN CITY OF HOMS EXTENDED FOR THREE MORE DAYS, CITY GOVERNOR TELLS REUTERS.
*Sales fell 18 pct in China in H1, weakness to persist in H2. PARIS, Feb 13- French drinks group Pernod Ricard cut its annual profit growth goal on Thursday, saying demand for its Martell cognac and Ballantine's whisky in China, its second-largest market, would stay sluggish through end-June.
LONDON, Feb 13- Google has said its UK sales hit $5.64 billion in 2013, a rise of 16 percent on the previous year-- its lowest growth rate in three years.
MADRID, Feb 13- Europe needs to press ahead with labour and public pensions reforms and restore confidence in its banks if it wants to translate a fragile recovery into jobs, Spain's economy minister said on Thursday.
SHANGHAI/ BEIJING, Feb 13- Chinese banks' non-performing loan ratio rose to its highest level in two years in the last three months of 2013, official data showed on Thursday, highlighting the risk to China's banking system from bad debt as the economy slows.
BEIJING, Feb 13- Lenovo Group Ltd leader Yang Yuanqing says the Chinese technology giant will draw on cost-cutting lessons learned when it bought IBM Corp's ThinkPad laptop unit to turn losses into profit at businesses acquired for $5.2 billion last month.
MILAN, Feb 13- Italy sold the top planned amount at a bond auction on Thursday paying the cheapest three-year yield since the launch of the euro as uncertainty over the future of Prime Minister Enrico Letta failed to unnerve investors hunting for returns.
LONDON, Feb 13- British engineering firm Amec proposed a higher than expected dividend on Thursday after posting a 3 percent rise in full-year core profit and a record-breaking order book.
ROME, Feb 13- Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta faces a showdown with his own centre-left party on Thursday that could lead to his resignation and the appointment of Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi as head of a new government within days.
*Joins EIA, OPEC in raising demand growth estimate. That was boosted by a rebound in demand in North America and Europe after several years of declining consumption. The Paris- based agency increased its estimate of the demand for oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries from last month's report by 100,000 bpd to 29.6 million bpd.
OSLO, Feb 13- Norway's Johan Sverdrup oilfield, the biggest North Sea find in decades, will produce more at its peak than earlier thought and initial development costs will be below forecasts, operator Statoil said on Thursday. "The update is very positive, implies reduced uncertainty," Teodor Sveen Nilsen at Swedbank wrote in a note to clients.
WARSAW, Feb 13- Poland's government on Thursday dismissed the head of the state road agency, who had been at the centre of disputes between Poland and international engineering firms over a European-backed road-building programme.
*OPEC, IEA, EIA all raise oil demand growth forecasts. LONDON, Feb 13- Brent crude oil slipped towards $108 a barrel on Thursday, easing for the first time in three sessions ahead of an expected dip in demand during the refinery maintenance season. The comments reinforced supportive reports by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and OPEC.
*Dollar down, euro, yen and franc profit from halt in stocks rally. LONDON, Feb 13- The dollar lost almost half a percent against the safe haven yen and Swiss franc and fell back from overnight gains to the euro as a rally in global shares halted on Thursday. Sweden's crown also fell on the back of a similarly poor data.