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  • ZURICH, April 3- Barry Callebaut, the world's biggest chocolate maker, reported a rise in half-year profits on Thursday, boosted by the turnaround of the Petra Foods' cocoa business it bought over a year ago, and reaffirmed its medium-term sales growth target.

  • STOCKHOLM, April 3- U.S.-based PR software and services firm Meltwater announced an 895 million Swedish crown cash bid for Swedish peer Cision on Thursday, topping an offer by private equity-controlled Blue Canyon Holdings. Meltwater bid 60 crowns per share for Cision, 9 percent higher than the rival offer from Blue Canyon.

  • LONDON, April 3- The rise in European stocks this week petered on Thursday after figures showed that economic activity slowed a bit last month and with investors reluctant to add fuel to the rally ahead of the European Central Bank's policy decision later in the day.

  • LONDON, April 3- Britain's dominant services sector expanded steadily in March, pointing to solid economic growth in the first quarter, even though the rate of expansion was the slowest since last June and hiring eased, a survey showed on Thursday.

  • *FTSEurofirst 300, Euro STOXX 50 both flat. LONDON, April 3- Spanish shares outperformed flat European markets on Thursday as strong services data strengthened investor optimism about an economic recovery in the struggling southern European country. The index has outperforming its peers in Europe's core countries, such as Germany's Dax.

  • SHANGHAI, April 3- Hong Kong shares edged up to a fresh three-week closing high on Thursday, buoyed by news the Chinese government would increase investment in railways and hopes that mainland investors may receive greater access to stocks on the Hong Kong exchange.

  • *To open record 1,600 new 7- Eleven stores in Japan in 2014/ 15. TOKYO, April 3- Japan's Seven& I Holdings Co, the world's biggest convenience store operator, unveiled plans for a record pace of expansion at home, unfazed by a sales tax hike that threatens to damp consumer sentiment in the world's No.3 economy.

  • LONDON, April 3- Euro zone businesses logged their busiest quarter in three years at the start of 2014 but did so by slashing prices, surveys showed on Thursday, underscoring fears that deflation may soon afflict the region. The European Central Bank is not expected to ease policy any further when it meets later on Thursday.

  • *Euro flat after dip in Asia ahead of ECB decision. LONDON, April 3- The euro inched lower against the dollar on Thursday ahead of the European Central Bank's monthly policy decision and news conference, eyed for signs of whether the bank is any closer to doing more to boost growth.

  • ZURICH, April 3- Barry Callebaut, the world's biggest chocolate maker, reported a rise in half-year profits on Thursday, boosted by the turnaround of the Petra cocoa business it bought over a year ago, and reaffirmed its medium-term sales growth target.

  • European shares steady, with ECB in focus Thursday, 3 Apr 2014 | 3:15 AM ET

    LONDON, April 3- European shares steadied on Thursday, with many investors holding fire to see whether the European Central Bank would give more signs it is ready to fight disinflationary pressures weighing on the euro zone.

  • SHANGHAI, April 3- China shares dropped on Thursday as property stocks were hit by profit-taking following a jump the previous day on media reports that some cities may relax restrictions on home buying.

  • BEIJING, April 3- A robust services sector will not stop China's economy from slowing into the middle of the year, analysts said after modest government stimulus was seen as a signal authorities want to steady growth to keep their reform drive on track.

  • *Board meets Apr 7-8, decision seen Apr 8 0330-0500 GMT. TOKYO, April 3- The Bank of Japan is expected to stand pat on monetary policy and maintain an upbeat view of the economy next week, unfazed by corporate-sector concerns a sales tax hike may dent growth and delay a sustainable exit from deflation.

  • Russia c.bank stopped daily forex sales on April 1 Thursday, 3 Apr 2014 | 2:20 AM ET

    MOSCOW, April 3- Russia's central bank said on Thursday it did not sell foreign currency on the market on April 1, the first time in five months.

  • TOKYO, April 3- Seven& I Holdings Co, the world's biggest convenience store operator, forecast a slowdown in profit growth for the year from March 1 as a sales tax increase erodes earnings at its supermarkets and department stores even as sales remain strong at its 7- Eleven shops.

  • TOKYO, April 3- Japanese stocks rose to a three-week high on Thursday, helped by gains in construction equipment makers on news China is taking steps to stimulate its economy, and as the dollar hit a 10- week high to the yen after solid U.S. economic data. The Nikkei ended 0.8 percent higher to 15,071.88 points, the highest close since March 11.

  • SANTIAGO, April 2- A powerful 7.6- magnitude earthquake struck off northern Chile late on Wednesday but there were no reports of damage and a precautionary tsunami alert along the coast and in neighboring Peru was called off. The area is home to many of the biggest mines in Chile, the world's top copper producer.

  • *Urban decay grips Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. HARARE, April 3- On Harare's hardscrabble streets, college graduates compete with peasants scratching out a living selling anything from mobile phone cards to herbal sex tonics, a measure of the decline of Zimbabwe's "Sunshine City" under President Robert Mugabe.

  • FENGHUA, China, April 3- To understand why many of China's small property developers are struggling, look no further than Zhejiang Xingrun Real Estate. The once little-known regional developer is now on the brink of becoming one of China's biggest real estate bankruptcies in recent memory. Some markets saw outright price declines, in particular Ningbo.