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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.
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.
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.
*Cautious outlooks question full-year forecasts. LONDON, March 20- European stocks have all but finished their best earnings season in over a year, but the double-digit growth in 2014 profits that analysts said was needed to keep stocks rising is looking increasingly precarious.
March 20- ConAgra Foods Inc's quarterly profit beat analysts' lowered estimates and the maker of Hunt's tomato ketchup and Slim Jim beef jerky maintained its full-year earnings forecast.
LONDON, March 20- Investment banks must take tough decisions to quit ailing business areas and should reduce their balance sheets by $1 trillion- or almost a tenth- to lift profitability, an industry report said.
The halt announced on Thursday was for enrollments in a trial sponsored by Mayo Clinic, and comes a week after the FDA ordered Geron to cease company-sponsored trials of the drug over similar concerns. The FDA on March 12 had ordered a complete halt to trials that were testing imetelstat to treat thrombocythemia and multiple myeloma, two forms of blood cancer.
*Yellen signals rate hikes might come sooner than expected. LONDON, March 20- Top-rated euro zone debt underperformed peripheral bonds on Thursday in a broad sell-off triggered by the U.S.
*China's yuan skids to its lowest in a year. LONDON, March 20- The dollar hit three-week highs against a basket of currencies and stocks and bonds fell across the globe on Thursday as investors positioned for a speedier rise in U.S. interest rates than previously thought.
*Mining output to rise in Australia, Colombia, South Africa. "As global output is now set to expand, we believe the supply overhang will persist and revise our forecast for Newcastle coal lower to $74 per tonne as an average for 2014, down from $82 per tonne previously," Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a research note on Thursday.
*China's yuan deepens slide, hits one-year low. LONDON, March 20- The dollar powered higher against its major currency peers on Thursday after a surprise message from Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen that rises in U.S. interest rates were not as far away as most had thought.
WASHINGTON, March 20- Germany is the world's most efficient exporter and importer, the World Bank said on Thursday. In its latest trade logistics score card, the World Bank ranked seven European economies among the top 10, along with the United States, Singapore and Japan.
*PetroChina posts 21 pct yr-yr rise in Q4 net profit; 2013 profit up 12 pct. producer PetroChina Co Ltd said on. "Last year marked a turning point for PetroChina," Chairman Zhou Jiping told reporters after the company posted a 21 percent rise in fourth quarter net profit, largely due to government hikes in natural gas prices and an improvement in its refining business.
March 20- Premier Farnell Plc, a distributor of electronic devices and components, reported an 8.4 percent rise in full-year pretax profit, helped by higher-than-expected sales in China, India and eastern Europe in the second half of the year. "The real stars for us were India and China...