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Oil Extends Pre-Christmas Rally in Asia after U.S. Report

Oil prices extended their recent rally in Asia on Thursday as a drop in U.S. crude supplies cheered global financial markets ahead of the long Christmas weekend.

The main global contracts for the commodity surged more than 3.5 percent on Wednesday after the U.S. Department of Energy reported inventories unexpectedly fell in the week ending December 18 while imports sank about 13 percent week on week.

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Saudi to Diversify Economy Away from Oil, Says King

Saudi King Salman on Wednesday said he has ordered economic reforms to diversify sources of income and reduce high dependence on oil following a sharp drop in crude prices.

"Our vision for economic reform is to increase the efficiency of public spending, utilize economic resources and boost returns from state investment," he said in an address to the Shura Council.

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Top EU Court Rules against Scottish Minimum Drink Price Law

The EU's top court ruled Wednesday that Scotland's minimum price system for alcohol, designed to stop people "drinking themselves to death," was contrary to EU law.

The European Court of Justice said the measure violated the bloc's single market rules while its objective of reducing alcohol intake would be better achieved by tax measures.

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Russia Issues Banknote Celebrating Crimea Annexation

Russia's Central Bank on Wednesday issued a banknote depicting famous landmarks of Crimea, commemorating last year's annexation of the peninsula that was slammed by the West and led to sanctions against Moscow.

The banknote with the denomination of 100 rubles (about $1.40. 1.29 euros) is "dedicated to Crimea and Sevastopol becoming a part of the Russian Federation," the Central Bank said in a statement. 

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World Bank Loans Philippines $500m to Fight Natural Disasters

The World Bank approved a $500 million loan Wednesday to help the Philippines deal with natural disasters.

It can access the new credit line following "a state of calamity" declared by the president, the World Bank said in a statement.

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Report: British Economy Grows Slower than Expected

Britain's economy grew slower than expected in the third quarter, revised official data showed on Wednesday.

Gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.4 percent in the July-September period, down from previous estimates of 0.5-percent growth, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

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Tata Steel in Talks to Sell Struggling British Assets

Tata Steel on Tuesday said it will enter into talks over selling struggling facilities in Britain and France to a private equity firm, as its Indian parent battles against lower prices.

"This is an extremely critical time for the whole industry, and we have been working hard to explore all options that could provide a future for the Long Products Europe business," Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, said in a company statement.

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Moody's Cuts Scandal-Hit Toshiba's Credit Rating to Junk

Crisis-hit Toshiba's woes deepened Tuesday when Moody's cut its credit rating to junk, casting doubt on a turnaround plan unveiled in response to an embarrassing profit-padding scandal.

On Monday Toshiba rolled out a wide-ranging restructuring which included thousands of job cuts, as it warned it would book a record $4.5 billion annual loss.

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German Consumer Confidence Unfazed by Paris Attacks

Consumer confidence in Germany is rising, apparently unaffected for the time being by the November 13 terror attacks in France, a poll found on Tuesday.

"The terror attacks in Paris in mid-November and the increased dangers of terrorist attacks in Germany don't seem to be leaving much of an impression on German consumers," market research company GfK said in a statement. 

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Crisis-Hit Toshiba Plunges again, Drags Down Tokyo Shares

Toshiba shares plunged to their lowest level in nearly seven years on Tuesday after it warned of a $4.5 billion annual loss and layoffs tied to an embarrassing profit-padding scandal, dragging Tokyo's benchmark stock index lower.

The Nikkei 225 at the Tokyo Stock Exchange fell 0.16 percent, or 29.32 points, to close at 18,886.70. The broader Topix index of all first-section shares ticked up 0.15 percent, or 2.32 points, to 1,533.60.

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