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  • 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.

  • *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.