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French Winemakers Look beyond China to Emerging Asia

Faced with a stalling China market, French winemakers are working to entice a growing middle class in Asia away from spirits and beer -- but face big obstacles in doing so.

Chinese wine shipments and consumption fell for the first time in a decade in 2013. The drop comes as Beijing reins in luxury spending and extravagant banquets, against the backdrop of a slower economy, and an anti-graft campaign backed by President Xi Jinping to root out official corruption.

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Russia Signs Deal on Economic Union with Belarus, Kazakhstan

Russia on Thursday signed an agreement with Belarus and Kazakhstan on creating a Eurasian Economic Union designed to strengthen ties between the three ex-Soviet countries.

The agreement was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

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World Cup Budget already Spent or Stolen, says Organizer

A member of Brazil's World Cup organizing committee sparked controversy Tuesday by telling protesters angry over the tournament budget that the money had already been spent or stolen.

Reacting to the wave of protests over the more than $11 billion being spent on the event, Joana Havelange chided demonstrators calling for some of that money to be redirected toward health, education and transport, telling them they were too late.

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Report: MtGox Operator Looks to Sell Bitcoin Trademarks

The holding company of collapsed virtual currency exchange MtGox is looking to sell the trademark to the word Bitcoin, The Wall Street Journal said Wednesday.

The company hopes to raise at least 100 million yen, or about $1 million, for a package including the Bitcoin trademarks in Japan and the European Union, the Journal quoted an executive of the company as saying.

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Alibaba to Take Stake in Singapore Post for $249 mn

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba will buy a 10.35 percent stake in Singapore Post (SingPost) for Sg$312.50 million ($249 million) as part of a strategic cooperation deal, both companies announced Wednesday.

The two companies also signed a memorandum of understanding to discuss a joint venture in the global logistics business, particularly in Southeast Asia, the statement said.

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ECB: Eurozone Loans to Private Sector Still Contracting

Loans to the private sector in the euro area -- a gauge of economic health -- are still contracting, but at a slower rate than before, European Central Bank data showed on Wednesday.

The volume of loans to private businesses and households declined by 1.8 percent in April, after falling by 2.2 percent the previous month, the ECB said in a statement. 

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Oil Prices Mixed with Ukraine Crisis in Focus

Oil prices were mixed in Asia Wednesday, underpinned by concerns about the Ukraine crisis as fierce armed confrontation between government forces and pro-Moscow separatists continued unabated, leaving dozens dead.

U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in July, eased four cents to $104.07 in afternoon trade. Brent North Sea crude for July gained 13 cents to $110.15 per barrel. 

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Ukraine Moves Step Closer to Visa-Free EU Travel

Ukraine moved a step further closer to visa-free travel to the EU on Tuesday when the EU's executive ruled it had put in place the required legislative reforms.

Ukraine "meets the first-phase requirements," a European Commission statement said. "The second phase where the Commission will be checking the implementation of these rules can therefore be launched."

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IMF Says Spain has 'Turned Corner'

The IMF declared Tuesday that Spain's economic recovery is here to stay, hailing a return to growth and job-creation despite the nation's 26-percent unemployment rate.

"Spain has turned the corner," the International Monetary Fund said in a report on the eurozone's fourth-largest economy, which emerged in mid-2013 from five years of stop-start recession.

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ILO: Developing Countries See Swelling Middle Class

Workers in developing countries are increasingly moving to better jobs and joining the middle class, but 839 million workers still earn less than $2.00 a day, the International Labour Organization said. 

"The developing countries are generally in a process of catching up with the advanced economies," ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters in Geneva ahead of the release of the agency's annual World of Work Report on Tuesday.

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