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Starwood rides economic recover to strong 1Q

FILE - A Tuesday, July 17, 2012 file photo, shows Starwood Hotels W Hollywood hotel logo in Los Angeles. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. reports quarterly earnings on Thursday, April 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Starwood's first-quarter net income declined 36 percent compared with last year when it booked some big asset sales, but it easily beat Wall Street expectations for profit and revenue.


Russian memo to WTO says U.S. sanctions are illegal

By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia has told the United States that its Ukraine-related sanctions on a Russian bank and Russian citizens are illegal under World Trade Organization rules and must be scrapped. Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said last week that Russia could launch a dispute at the world trade body to challenge U.S. sanctions. The latest warning, set out in a confidential document circulated at the WTO on Wednesday, explained what grounds Russia would have for doing so and made clear that Moscow believes it would win a trade dispute if it launched one. Member countries can claim some exemptions from WTO rules, however, including on grounds of national security.

FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes

FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2014 photo, Talia Eisenberg, co-founder of the Henley Vaporium, uses her vaping device in New York. Soon, the Food and Drug Administration will propose rules for e-cigarettes. The rules will have big implications for a fast-growing industry and its legions of customers. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) The government wants to ban sales to minors and require health warning labels.


Central bank: Spanish growth doubled in Q1

MADRID (AP) — The recovery in the Spanish economy appears to be gathering steam.

Obama poised for new sanctions on Russia if no progress on Ukraine

Ukrainian security force officers walk past a checkpoint set on fire and left by pro-Russian separatists near Slaviansk By Mark Felsenthal and Alissa de Carbonnel TOKYO/DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday he was poised to impose new sanctions on Moscow if it does not act fast to end an armed stand-off in Ukraine, but there was a first, tentative sign that pro-Russian separatists were ceding ground. Moscow also flexed its economic muscles in its worst stand-off with the West since the Cold War, with the government suggesting foreign firms which pull out of the country may not be able to get back in, and a source at Gazprom saying the gas exporter had slapped an additional $11.4 billion bill on Kiev. Under an international accord signed in Geneva last week, illegal armed groups in Ukraine, including the pro-Russian rebels occupying about a dozen public buildings in the east of the country, are supposed to disarm and go home. Washington accuses Moscow of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine while Russia denies this and counters that Europe and the United States are supporting an illegitimate government in Kiev.


10 Things to Know for Today

FILE - In a Monday, Jan. 17, 2011 file photo, gun violence protesters participate in a lie-in during an anti-gun rally at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Nearly six in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws in the aftermath of last month's deadly school shooting in Connecticut, with majorities favoring a nationwide ban on military-style, rapid-fire weapons and limits on gun violence depicted in video games and movies and on TV, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. A lopsided 84 percent of adults would like to see the establishment of a federal standard for background checks for people buying guns at gun shows, the poll showed. President Barack Obama was set Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 to unveil a wide-ranging package of steps for reducing gun violence expected to include a proposed ban on assault weapons, limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines and universal background checks for gun sales. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File) Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:


Kiev claims rebel defeats in east Ukraine as Obama warns Russia

A pro-Russian armed man stands guard near the state security service building in Slaviansk Slavyansk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Kiev claimed it inflicted stinging defeats on pro-Kremlin rebels in east Ukraine on Thursday, as US President Barack Obama accused Russia of not abiding by a deal to defuse the escalating crisis in the ex-Soviet country. Shooting was heard in the rebel-held flashpoint town of Slavyansk, where a roadblock manned by insurgents was in flames, according to an AFP journalist. Ukrainian special forces retook control of the town hall in the southeastern port city of Mariupol and an army base in the eastern town of Artemivsk repelled an attack by heavily-armed rebels, Kiev's interior and defence ministries said. They were the first military successes announced by Ukraine's Western-backed government since pro-Russian militants seized control of a string of towns in the country's southeast over the past several weeks.


3-D imaging captures 1888 wreckage discovered in San Francisco Bay

This 2013 image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows a multi-beam sonar profile view of the shipwreck of the iron and wood steamship City of Chester. In 1888 on a trip from the San Francisco bay to Eureka, the Chester was split in two by a ship more than twice its size, killing 16 people and becoming the bay's second-worst maritime disaster. Now, more than a century later, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team has found the shipwreck. The team came upon the wreckage in 217 feet of water just inside the Golden Gate while it was charting shipping channels. (AP Photo/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The first images of the newly discovered wreckage of a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888, killing 16 people, were released Wednesday by federal ocean scientists.


Three Americans killed in Kabul hospital attack

Afghan policemen secure the area outside Cure Hospital after three foreigners were killed in Kabul Three U.S. citizens were killed when a security guard opened fire, the U.S. embassy said.


Obama reaffirms commitment to Japan on tour of Asia allies

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a joint news conference at the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo By Mark Felsenthal and Linda Sieg TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama assured ally Japan on Thursday that Washington was committed to its defense, including of tiny isles at the heart of a row with China, but denied he had drawn any new "red line" and urged peaceful dialogue over the islands. His comments drew a swift response from China, which said the disputed islets were Chinese territory. Obama also urged Japan to take "bold steps" to clinch a two-way trade pact seen as crucial to a broad regional agreement that is a central part of the U.S. leader's "pivot" of military, diplomatic and economic resources towards Asia and the Pacific. U.S. and Japanese trade negotiators failed to resolve differences in time for Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to shake hands on a deal at the summit.


Japan Amari: U.S., Japan remain apart in trade deal

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Thursday that the United States and Japan made progress in trade talks but did not reach a final deal. "This is not something we can reach a conclusion in a short period of time," Amari told reporters. (Reporting by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Dominic Lau)

Ukraine official: city hall cleared of protesters

A masked pro Russia protestor waves the Russian flag in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that "it's time to stop talking and start acting" to reduce tension in Ukraine, offering a show of support for the besieged nation as an international agreement aimed at stemming its ongoing crisis appeared in doubt. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Police have cleared the city hall in a southeastern Ukrainian city of the pro-Russia protesters who had been occupying it for over a week, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Thursday as government forces appeared to be resuming operations in the east. Local police officials and protesters, however, presented quite another picture of what happened in the city of Mariupol.


Juicy Apple buoys global shares

Security guards and staff stand at the entrance of an Apple store during the release of iPhone 5 in Beijing By Marc Jones LONDON (Reuters) - Global stocks were back on the front foot on Thursday, as upbeat earnings from tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook helped shake off some of the jitters that have hit the sector in recent weeks. The gains were boosted by the region's tech stocks and come after iPhone giant Apple reported record first quarter sales and laid out plans for a $30 billion share buy back and seven-for-one stock split. Facebook Inc shares jumped 3.7 percent after hours as the Internet social networking company topped Wall Street's expectations. The Nikkei slipped 0.97 percent with some investors apparently disappointed that a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama made no concrete progress on a trade deal.


Juicy Apple buoys shares, euro volatility sinks

A man walks past the London Stock Exchange in the City of London By Marc Jones LONDON (Reuters) - Global stocks were back on the front foot on Thursday, as upbeat earnings from tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook helped shake off some of the jitters that have hit the sector in recent weeks. The gains were boosted by the region's tech stocks and come after iPhone giant Apple reported record first quarter sales and laid out plans for a $30 billion share buy back and seven-for-one stock split. Facebook Inc shares jumped 3.7 percent after hours as the Internet social networking company topped Wall Street's expectations. The Nikkei slipped 0.97 percent with some investors apparently disappointed that a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama made no concrete progress on a trade deal.


South Africa c'act gap risk to financial system stability - cbank

A new five rand coin is displayed during its launch at the South African Mint. South Africa's current account deficit, while shrinking, presents a marked risk to the stability of the country's financial system, the Reserve Bank said on Thursday. Africa's most advanced economy relies heavily on foreign portfolio inflows to finance the gap, which narrowed to 5.1 percent of gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2013, from 6.4 percent previously. In its latest financial stability review, the bank said one of the more prominent risks to domestic financial stability was the impact of tapering of loose U.S. monetary policy and the effect that potentially higher interest rates in advanced economies could have on emerging markets. It said strikes in South Africa's key mining sector - whose exports accounted for about 60 percent of export revenue in 2013 - had not only hit production but also hampered debt repayment by both companies and individuals in the industry.


FACTBOX-Key pending reforms facing India's next government

The biggest challenge for India's next government, due to take charge after election results in May, will be to pull the economy out of its deepest slump in decades. Thursday was the sixth round of voting, which runs to May 12, with one recent opinion poll showing that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies may win an outright majority, ousting the Congress-led government. Here are 10 economic reform challenges that will require urgent attention from the new government: 1) GOODS AND SERVICES TAX (GST): India's most ambitious indirect tax reform would replace existing state and federal levies with a uniform tax, boosting revenue collection while cutting business transaction costs. GST, which could boost India's economy by up to two percentage points, has so far faced resistance from various states, including those governed by the Hindu nationalist BJP who fear loss of their fiscal powers.

What Direct Line Insurance Group plc’s Streamlining Drive Means For Earnings Growth

Royston Wild evaluates what Direct Line Insurance Group plc's (LON: DLG) transformation package is likely to mean for future earnings.

London pre-open: Stocks to open higher, lifted by US tech earnings

The FTSE 100 is set for a decent start to today's session, boosted by positive after- hours trading in the US last night, driven by strong results from technology giants Facebook and Apple.

AstraZeneca beats revenue forecasts in Q1, but earnings slide

Revenues up three per cent, ahead of forecasts; BMS diabetes buyout boosts top line; Earnings fall more than expected.

Japan, US focusing on trade statement, final deal elusive: official

Japanese and U.S. cabinet members are trying to hammer out a joint statement on trade but are not likely to reach a bilateral deal in the course of talks on Thursday, a Japanese official said. "There are too many issues remaining to wrap them up even if we worked through the night," the official said, just hours after President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered their trade negotiators to seek a deal, considered key for reaching an Asia-Pacific trade pact. Economy Minister Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman are focusing their efforts on crafting a joint statement, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Obama to Russia: More sanctions are 'teed up'

President Obama in Tokyo, Thursday TOKYO (AP) — Accusing Russia of failing to live up to its commitments, President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Thursday that the United States has another round of economic sanctions "teed up" — even as he acknowledged those penalties may do little to influence Vladimir Putin's handling of the crisis in Ukraine.


IMF says sub-Saharan Africa faces heightened risk of capital outflows

Visitors are silhouetted against the logo of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Tokyo Investment in infrastructure and natural resources will continue to underpin economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa, although capital outflows sparked by tighter global financial conditions pose a risk to growth, the IMF said on Thursday. "The main downside risk to this generally positive baseline scenario is the risk that growth in emerging markets might slow much more abruptly than currently envisaged," the International Monetary Fund said in its latest Regional Economic Outlook. "As advanced economies tighten their monetary policies, frontier market economies will also face higher funding costs and a heightened risk of reversal of capital flows," it said. The IMF forecasts economic growth of 5.5 percent for sub-Saharan Africa this year, up from 4.9 percent last year.


India's BJP eyes gains in south, east to cut clout of regional queens

A woman gets her finger marked with ink before casting her vote at a polling station, in Malda district of West Bengal India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party was set to make gains in two big states in the south and east that began voting on Thursday in the sixth phase of a mammoth general election that could help it build a stable majority in parliament. A final set of opinion polls predicted a strong showing by the BJP and its allies in Tamil Nadu in the south and West Bengal in the east that could make it less dependent on the two women who rule those states and who have in the past proved to be fickle coalition partners. The Hindu nationalist-led opposition, led by prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, is riding a wave of public anger across India against the ruling Congress party over a slew of corruption scandals and a slowing economy. A little over 180 million people were registered to vote on Thursday in the sixth phase of the world's biggest election that will end on May 16 when votes are counted from across India.


Oklahoma court rejects death-row inmates' claims

This photo combo of images provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Clayton Lockett, left, and Charles Warner. Lockett and Warner, two death-row inmates who want to know the source of drugs that will be used to execute them, have placed Oklahoma’s two highest courts at odds and prompted aggravated members of the Legislature to call for the impeachment of Oklahoma Supreme Court justices. (AP Photo/Oklahoma Department of Corrections) Court says inmates are not entitled to know source of drugs that will be used to kill them.


Classes begin at S. Korean school after ferry disaster

A mourner pays tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol near condolence flowers during a temporary memorial at the auditorium of the Olympic Memorial Museum in Ansan, south of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Divers made their way deeper Thursday into the submerged wreck of a ferry that sank more than a week ago as the death toll neared 160 and relatives of the more than 140 still missing pressed the government to finish the grim task of recovery soon. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) ANSAN, South Korea (AP) — Students in the city hit hardest by the South Korean ferry disaster returned to classes Thursday, their school campus a tragic landscape of yellow ribbons, chrysanthemums and photos of classmates and teachers who make up the vast majority of the more than 300 people feared dead.


Obama: New sanctions against Russia are 'teed up'

President Barack Obama speaks as he participates in a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Akasaka Palace state guest house in Tokyo Thursday, April 24, 2014. Obama says the time is now to resolve issues preventing the conclusion of a major, 12-nation trade agreement. Opening a four-country swing through the Asia-Pacific region, Obama is aiming to promote the U.S. as a committed economic, military and political partner, but the West's dispute with Russia over Ukraine threatens to cast a shadow over the president's sales mission. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) TOKYO (AP) — Warning Russia that new economic sanctions are "teed up," President Barack Obama accused Moscow of failing to live up to an agreement last week to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine.


Berkshire's Buffett says would buy few tech stocks currently: BBG TV

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and Chief Executive Warren Buffett said on Wednesday he would buy very few technology stocks at current levels and that the U.S. government should play a part in the housing market. The U.S. stock market has been hit with a wave of selling, particularly in high-growth stocks in the technology and biotechnology industries in recent weeks. Buffett also said the government should play a part in housing, and that the U.S. public would be better served with a government-guaranteed instrument "in the picture." He said he did not see any role for Berkshire Hathaway in mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Apple resets the clock as investors await next big thing

The Apple logo is pictured at a retail store in the Marina neighborhood in San Francisco By Edwin Chan SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc just bought itself some much-needed time. On Wednesday, the company surprised Wall Street with news that it sold more iPhones in the March quarter than even the most bullish analysts had expected. To top it all off, Apple unveiled a 7-for-1 stock split that should go down well with individuals who want a piece of a household name but could not afford to fork over $500 a share. The litany of positive numbers sent Apple's long-stagnant shares up 8 percent.


Facebook Q1 revenue grows 72 percent on rising mobile ads

The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's mobile advertising business accelerated in the first three months of the year, helping the Internet social networking company top Wall Street's financial targets. Shares of Facebook were up nearly 3 percent at $63.05 in after-hours trading on Wednesday. Facebook said that mobile ads represented 59 percent of its ad revenue in the first quarter, up from 30 percent in the year-ago period. Facebook's overall revenue grew 72 percent year-on-year to $2.5 billion in the first quarter, above the $2.36 billion expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. "They’ve got the right products for what advertisers are looking for and that’s manifesting itself in the results you’re seeing," said JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey.


Apple expands buybacks by $30 billion, OKs 7-for-1 stock split

People wait on street in front of Apple store as they await sales of new iPad in Apple store in Munich By Edwin Chan SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc has approved another $30 billion in share buybacks till the end of 2015 and authorized a rarely seen seven-for-one stock split, addressing calls to share more of its cash hoard while broadening the stock's appeal to individual investors. Activist investor Carl Icahn, who had famously called on the iPhone maker to boost its buyback program, tweeted his approval of the move on Wednesday. On Wednesday, Apple reported sales of 43.7 million iPhones in the quarter ended March, far outpacing the roughly 38 million that Wall Street had predicted. But whether Apple can again produce a revolutionary new product remains the central question in investors' and Silicon Valley executives' minds.


Facebook's next growth engines still warming up

Investor holds prospectus explaining Facebook stock after attending show for Facebook Inc's initial public offering at the Four Season's Hotel in Boston By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc has a message for Wall Street: Don't expect new revenue streams anytime soon. The world's No. 1 Internet social network delivered its strongest revenue growth in several years during the first quarter, as its mobile ad business gained steam. But even as Facebook gave investors the good news, buoying its stock by roughly 3 percent in after-hours trading, the company made it clear that other money-making efforts such as video ads and ads within its Instagram photo-sharing app would not bear fruit in the near future. "Many folks were anticipating a next leg of growth." Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told analysts on a conference call on Wednesday that Instagram ads, video ads and a nascent mobile ad network were all still in experimental phases and that none of them would make a meaningful contribution to revenue in 2014.


Apple shares reach 2014 highs, Asian stocks lag

Pedestrians look at an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo By Wayne Cole SYDNEY (Reuters) - Shares in tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook held hefty after-hours gains on Thursday as their results handily outpaced Wall Street expectations, though Asian markets managed only a mumbled cheer on the news. South Korea's Samsung Electronics did gain 0.6 percent but the main KOSPI index dipped a fraction. Markets were mixed across the region with Japan's Nikkei off 0.6 percent but Singapore up 0.5 percent. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged ahead by 0.1 percent.


China to open 8 state industries for investment

BEIJING (AP) — China's government says it will open 80 projects in eight state-run industries to private and foreign investors as part of efforts to make its slowing economy more efficient.

Facebook first-quarter revenue grows 72 percent on rising mobile ads

The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's mobile advertising business accelerated in the first three months of the year, helping the Internet social networking company top Wall Street's financial targets. Shares of Facebook were up nearly 3 percent at $63.05 (37.57 pounds) in after-hours trading on Wednesday. Facebook said that mobile ads represented 59 percent of its ad revenue in the first quarter, up from 30 percent in the year-ago period. Facebook's overall revenue grew 72 percent year-on-year to $2.5 billion in the first quarter, above the $2.36 billion expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. "They've got the right products for what advertisers are looking for and that's manifesting itself in the results you're seeing," said JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey.


Women held in Cleveland basement seek Joan Rivers' apology

SiriusXM's "Howard Stern Birthday Bash" - Arrivals CLEVELAND (AP) — Attorneys for two women held in a Cleveland home and abused for a decade say Joan Rivers should apologize for comparing living in her daughter's guest room with the captivity they experienced.


Asia markets: Tech sector brightens as Apple jumps 8 percent

An employee of the Tokyo Stock Exchange stretches at the bourse in Tokyo By Wayne Cole SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian markets could get a lift on Thursday after tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook beat Wall Street expectations, sending their stock up sharply and boosting Nasdaq futures. The Nasdaq futures were up 1 percent and the S&P 500 0.3 percent. Sentiment on the tech sector brightened after Apple decided to buy back $30 billion of its shares out to the end of 2015 and authorized a seven-for-one stock split. Apple reported sales of 43.7 million iPhones in the quarter ended March, far outpacing forecasts.


S&P warns of bank rating 'uncertainties' in independent Scotland

A Scottish Saltire flag and a Union flag of the United Kingdom fly above Standard Life House in Edinburgh, Scotland Ratings agency Standard & Poor's said there were "important considerations and uncertainties" that factored into the creditworthiness of banks should Scotland vote to end its 307-year union with England in September. Britain's three main political parties have been campaigning fiercely to keep the union intact, arguing that both countries are better off together, while Scotland's nationalists believe a split would give them the economic freedom to prosper. In a report published on Wednesday, S&P said it counted the existence of a Scottish central bank, the Scottish government's attitude towards helping struggling banks, changes to financial regulation and independent Scotland's currency among crucial factors that could impact its ratings on the country's banks. It added that its ratings on British banks currently assumed that the UK government would provide extraordinary support to systemically important banks under stress.


S&P warns of bank rating 'uncertainties' in independent Scotland

A Scottish Saltire flag and a Union flag of the United Kingdom fly above Standard Life House in Edinburgh, Scotland Ratings agency Standard & Poor's said there were "important considerations and uncertainties" that factored into the creditworthiness of banks should Scotland vote to end its 307-year union with England in September. Britain's three main political parties have been campaigning fiercely to keep the union intact, arguing that both countries are better off together, while Scotland's nationalists believe a split would give them the economic freedom to prosper. In a report published on Wednesday, S&P said it counted the existence of a Scottish central bank, the Scottish government's attitude towards helping struggling banks, changes to financial regulation and independent Scotland's currency among crucial factors that could impact its ratings on the country's banks. It added that its ratings on British banks currently assumed that the UK government would provide extraordinary support to systemically important banks under stress.


Tech sector brightens as Apple jumps 8 percent

Man looks at an electronic board displaying Japan's Nikkei average and various countries' stock indices outside a brokerage in Tokyo By Wayne Cole SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian markets could get a lift on Thursday after tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook beat Wall Street expectations, sending their stock up sharply and boosting Nasdaq futures. The Nasdaq futures were up 1 percent and the S&P 500 0.3 percent. Sentiment on the tech sector brightened after Apple decided to buy back $30 billion of its shares out to the end of 2015 and authorized a seven-for-one stock split. Apple reported sales of 43.7 million iPhones in the quarter ended March, far outpacing forecasts.


UK plans tougher pay rules for top company executives

Britain's Business Secretary Vince Cable speaks at the Liberal Democrats autumn conference in Glasgow By Huw Jones LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's stock-market listed companies should be able to claw back bonuses paid to poorly performing executive board members, a regulator proposed on Th...


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