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  • By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for November delivery was down 21 cents at $91.91 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, was down 47 cents to $112.86 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

  • Southwest Airlines eked out a small third-quarter profit in spite of a September slowdown, the company said on Thursday. Southwest has been using a mix of fare increases and sales to try to get its prices to a level that travelers will pay.

  • MILAN-- Shares in Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena have shed 6 percent of their value after Moody's cut the bank's credit rating to junk status. Moody's has dropped the ratings in the world's oldest running bank by two notches to Ba2 from Baaa3 with a negative outlook.

  • GENEVA-- Nestle SA, the world's biggest food and drink company, on Thursday said its sales growth slowed to 11 percent in the first nine months of 2012 as demand eased both in developed economies and emerging markets, where high growth is starting to cool off.

  • MADRID-- Spain raised 4.6 billion at a sharply lower cost Thursday amid growing expectations that the cash-strapped country will soon make a request for international help to deal with its finances. Spain says it will soon decide whether to look to tap a European Central Bank bond-buying program largely designed to keep a lid on its borrowing costs.

  • Authorities said around 70,000 protesters took to the street in two separate demonstrations in Athens during the country's second general strike in a month as workers across the country walked off the job to protest new austerity measures the government is negotiating with Greece's international creditors.

  • MGM China Holdings Ltd. said it formally accepted a land concession contract from the Macau government for a 7.2 hectare plot in the Cotai district, an area of reclaimed land that's earmarked for all new casinos in the Asian gambling haven. MGM China said it is paying $161.4 million for the land, including a $56.2 million down payment.

  • LONDON-- Markets were largely steady Thursday, after solid gains this week, on signs that China's economy is not slowing as quickly as feared, the U.S. is recovering and Spain will soon request a bailout.

  • SAN FRANCISCO-- Google Inc.' s third-quarter earnings should reveal whether investors' recently rejuvenated optimism about the Internet search leader's growth prospects is justified.

  • HONG KONG-- The Chinese arm of U.S. casino company MGM Resorts International says it has signed a long-awaited land deal to build a new casino resort in Macau, the world's biggest gambling market. MGM said it is paying $161.4 million for the land, including a down payment of $56.2 million.

  • MADRID-- Spain has raised 4.6 billion at a sharply lower cost amid growing expectations that the cash-strapped country will soon make a request for international help to deal with its finances. The Treasury sold 1.51 billion in 10- year bonds Thursday at an average interest rate of 5.46 percent, down from 5.66 percent in the last such auction Sept. 20.

  • BERLIN-- German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed a proposal for a top European Union official to be given the power to veto member governments' budgets, and suggested Thursday that the bloc could set up a new fund to finance projects in struggling countries.

  • LISBON, Portugal-- The junior party in bailed-out Portugal's coalition government has ended days of political tension by endorsing a plan for severe tax increases next year, ensuring the new austerity measures are approved in Parliament.

  • BEIRUT-- Syria's state news agency says rebels have blown up two oil and gas pipelines in the northeast near the Iraqi border. The pipelines ran between Deir al-Zour and the city of Palmyra in central Syria. Rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad have repeatedly bombed such pipelines.

  • BANGKOK-- Stock markets rose Thursday after an unexpectedly strong U.S. housing report renewed confidence in the world's biggest economy and the latest data from China suggested the worst of its slump is over.

  • BERLIN-- German Chancellor Angela Merkel is endorsing a proposal for a top European Union official to be given the power to veto member countries' budgets, and is suggesting the bloc could set up a fund to finance projects in struggling countries. Merkel addressed Germany's Parliament ahead of an EU summit starting Thursday.

  • MOSCOW-- Russia on Thursday downplayed concerns that Rosneft's possible purchase of BP's stake in the joint venture TNK-BP, which analysts say would reshape the country's oil industry and create the world's biggest oil and gas company, is likely to threaten competition.

  • KASHAGAN OILFIELD, Kazakhstan-- The manmade islands that are home to Kazakhstan's mammoth Kashagan oilfield project rise like a mirage to the boats churning through the shallow waters of the Caspian Sea. When surveyors confirmed in 2000 that Kazakhstan had a new supergiant oil reserve, the world's energy companies reacted with glee.

  • GENEVA-- Strong growth in emerging markets helped Swiss food and drink giant Nestle SA post an 11 percent increase in sales for the first nine months of 2012.. The Vevey- based group said Thursday that sales rose to 67.6 billion Swiss francs through September, up from 60.9 billion francs in the same period last year.