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EU Backs New Sanctions as Summit Weighs Russia Crisis

The EU agreed new sanctions against Russian-annexed Crimea Thursday to show resolve against Moscow as European leaders prepared to discuss Russia's spiraling financial crisis amid fears of the impact on their economies.

The leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels will also back a huge 315-billion-euro ($380-billion) investment plan aimed at kickstarting Europe's stalling economy, although pledges of hard cash are expected to be lacking.

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Saudi Minister: 'Impossible' for Saudi to Reduce Oil Output

Saudi Arabia, the largest producer in the OPEC oil cartel, cannot reduce its output, the kingdom's oil minister said on Thursday despite plunging prices.

Ali al-Nuaimi added that commodity price fluctuations are to be expected, and he expressed optimism for the future despite crude's price drop of about 50 percent since June.

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Gulf Stocks Rebound Strongly as Oil Price Steadies

Gulf stock markets rebounded strongly on Thursday as world oil prices steadied after plumbing multi-year lows, calming investor jitters.

Dubai Financial Market Index -- which had been the region's biggest loser -- rose 11.5 percent and was trading on 3,381.99 points.

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Swiss Central Bank Introduces Negative Interest Rate

Switzerland's central bank announced Thursday it was introducing negative interest rates to stop the franc getting any stronger, after the Russian ruble crisis sent investors pouring their investments into the safe haven currency.

The Swiss National Bank will impose a rate of -0.25 percent on certain bank deposits on January 22, with the aim of pushing the target range of Switzerland's benchmark interest rate into negative territory.

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Putin Promises Economic Recovery to Worried Russia

President Putin on Thursday attempted to assuage fears of economic collapse and promised rapid recovery as he faced hundreds of journalists during the worst financial crisis of his rule.

Speaking at his annual press-conference, the Russian leader said that the economic downturn will last two years at the most and he promised to support the poorest segment of the population.

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Russian Mistral Sailors to Leave France

Some 400 Russian sailors are returning home, French shipbuilder DCNS said Wednesday, as Paris weighs whether to deliver the Mistral-class warship to Russia amid the Ukraine crisis.

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Russia Finance Ministry Selling Reserves to Support Ruble

Russia's finance ministry is selling its foreign currency to support the ruble, a spokeswoman told AFP on Wednesday.

"The finance ministry considers the ruble extremely undervalued and is starting to sell its left-over currency on the market," spokeswoman Svetlana Nikitina said. She did not give details of the amount.

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Saudi to Continue 'Massive' Spending Despite Oil Price Fall

Saudi Arabia will continue massive public spending despite a 50 percent drop in the price of oil which provides the bulk of the kingdom's revenue, the finance minister said Wednesday.

Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf commented after completing the 2015 budget, which will be presented to cabinet "in the near future", the official Saudi Press Agency said.

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Disasters Cost $113 Billion Damage in 2014

Extreme weather and other natural and man-made disasters caused $113 billion (90.6 billion euros) in economic losses in 2014, reinsurer Swiss Re said Wednesday.

This is 16 percent less than the $135 billion in losses recorded in 2013 and significantly below the average annual figure of $188 billion for the previous 10 years.

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Oil Prices Sink Further in Asian Trade

Oil suffered fresh losses in Asia Wednesday, sinking to new multi-year lows as dealers watch Russia's ruble crisis and await the latest U.S. crude supply report, analysts said.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery sank $1.16 in afternoon trade to $54.77 while Brent crude for February fell 71 cents to $59.30 on the contract's first day of trading.

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