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  • HOUSTON, Feb 4- When it split off its Phillips 66 refining arm in 2012, ConocoPhillips said a rich and growing dividend payout would entice investors and set it apart from other exploration and production companies that typically offered lower shareholder returns. So on Thursday, when Conoco said it was slashing its payout for the first time in 25 years due to...

  • WASHINGTON, Feb 4- U.S. small businesses stepped up hiring in January after taking a pause in December and many continued to point to difficulty finding qualified workers, a survey showed on Thursday. The monthly survey of the National Federation of Independent Business showed that 52 percent of respondents said they were hiring or trying to hire, but a large...

  • BRASILIA/ SAO PAULO, Feb 4- Brazil's trade minister called for unrestricted auto trade with Mexico and Argentina on Thursday, after data showed the local automotive sector had its worst January in a dozen years. In a brief interview with Reuters, Trade Minister Armando Monteiro said he would propose free trade in vehicles and auto parts when he travels next week...

  • President Barack Obama will propose a new $10 a barrel fee on oil in his budget plan next week, as the White House seeks to boost the nation's investments in clean transportation projects, the White House said on Thursday.

  • Feb 4- The S&P 500 and Nasdaq edged lower in choppy trading Thursday after disappointing forecasts from retailers and as investors braced for Friday's monthly jobs report. Ralph Lauren sank 22 percent to $90.15 while Kohl's fell 18.4 percent to $41.70, the two biggest percentage decliners in the S&P 500.. The Dow was in positive territory, helped by shares of...

  • Robert Califf, President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration, said on Thursday the agency would reform its process for approving opioid painkillers. The FDA said it has agreed to convene a committee before approving any new opioid that does not have abuse-deterrent properties. Califf, who joined the FDA a year ago as a deputy...

  • *Friday's jobs data in focus. NEW YORK, Feb 4- U.S. "The market expects U.S. data to slow down and the Fed not to hike even as much as it had earlier indicated," said Amrut Nashikkar, analyst at Barclays in New York.

  • NEW YORK/ LONDON, Feb 4- Oil fell in volatile trade on Thursday as doubts grew about whether producers would agree to cut output and grains markets also reversed earlier gains, while gold and zinc jumped to their highest in more than three months, buoyed by a weaker dollar. Prices have recovered more than 25 percent since falling to $27.10, the lowest since November...

  • Feb 4- Online retailer Amazon.com Inc has renewed its long-running credit card relationship with JPMorgan Chase& Co, the Wall Street Journal reported. At least one other card issuer was also interested in a tie-up with Amazon for payment cards, the Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. The financial details of the deal were not...

  • NEW YORK, Feb 4- The U.S. dollar extended its plunge against major currencies on Thursday as traders sharply unwound bullish bets against the greenback on continued skepticism that the Federal Reserve would be able to hike interest rates this year. The euro rose more than 1 percent to its highest in 15 weeks at $1.12390 against the dollar, while the dollar fell...

  • Feb 4- Online retailer Amazon.com Inc has renewed its long-running credit card relationship with JPMorgan Chase& Co, the Wall Street Journal reported. At least one other card issuer was also interested in a tie-up with Amazon for payment cards, the Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. The financial details of the deal were not...

  • WASHINGTON, Feb 4- Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman on Thursday said he opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in its present form, dealing a significant blow to the pact just a day after officials from 12 countries signed it. Portman, from Ohio, said the Pacific trade deal fails to meet the needs of his state's workers because it lacks an enforceable...

  • MEXICO CITY, Feb 4- Mexico's central bank held borrowing costs steady on Thursday, but said it would monitor increasing risks to inflation from a deep slump in the peso even as it noted the outlook for growth had worsened. The Banco de Mexico left its key rate at 3.25 percent, as expected by all 15 analysts surveyed by Reuters last week. The Banco de Mexico hiked its key...

  • NEW YORK/ LONDON, Feb 4- Gold rose for a second day on Thursday, hitting three-month highs as the dollar continued to ease amid mounting doubts that the U.S. "The market is fetishizing bad news and convincing itself that the Fed will never be able to hike again," director of base and precious metals trading for BMO Capital Markets in New York. Spot gold was up more than 1...

  • LONDON, Feb 4- Iran on Thursday called on the United States to make a clear public pledge that it would not penalise European banks for legitimate trade with the Islamic Republic. "Rebuilding the confidence of the banks that the United States will not re-intervene in their relations with Iran may require some further assurance from the United States," Zarif said...

  • Qatar's Energy Minister Mohammed al-Sada is the current holder of the rotating OPEC presidency. Del Pino later met Oman's Oil Minister Mohammad bin Hamad al-Rumhy, who "reiterated his support of the actions Venezuela has taken to stabilize the market," according to statements from the Oil Minister and state oil company PDVSA, over which Del Pino presides.

  • NEW YORK, Feb 4- Colm Kelleher is a stickler for discipline, even when it comes to the office dress code. Kelleher's role as enforcer-in-chief at Morgan Stanley was solidified last month when the Wall Street firm's Chief Executive James Gorman named him president, the No. 2 spot. Ahead of his promotion he culled one-in-four jobs on its bond trading desk and he is...

  • SANTIAGO, Feb 4- An Italian consortium, including construction company Astaldi Spa, is close to securing a contract to build the world's largest telescope in the Chilean desert, project owner the European Southern Observatory said on Thursday. The consortium includes major Italian builder Cimolai and subcontractor the EIE Group, as well as Astaldi.

  • Democrats are making support for Flint, a poor city of mostly African Americans and Latinos near Detroit, a wider issue ahead of the November presidential election. Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are set to hold a presidential debate next month in Flint. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska and a co-sponsor of the bill,...

  • NEW YORK, Feb 4- A plan to rein in New York City's horse-drawn carriages, a long-time Central Park tourist attraction, has collapsed after the labor union that helped negotiate the deal withdrew its support, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday. The Teamsters local that represents carriage drivers had worked with de Blasio to craft a compromise that stopped...