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Switzerland Halves Growth Forecast as Strong Franc Bites

Switzerland on Thursday halved its growth forecast for 2015 as the strong franc bit into the country's exports, but the central bank said it was keeping its monetary policy unchanged.

The Swiss National Bank caused an upheaval in world currency markets when it suddenly scrapped its 1.20 franc cap against the euro in January.

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Kuwait: OPEC has no Option but to Keep Output Ceiling

OPEC members have no choice but to maintain current production levels despite falling oil prices in order to preserve their market share, Kuwait's oil minister said on Thursday.

"Within OPEC, we don't have any other choice than keeping the ceiling of production as it is because we don't want to lose our share in the market," Ali al-Omair told reporters.

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Merkel Sees no Reason to Despair over Greece

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was no reason to despair over Greece, although she warned that a solution to the country's debt crisis would not be found at Thursday's EU summit. 

"If we look at what we have achieved on the road to the European Union, I don't see any reason to give up, or despair. On the contrary," Merkel said in a statement to the German parliament, just hours before the summit in Brussels.

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Oil Prices Resume Downtrend in Asia

Another surge in U.S. stockpiles pushed oil prices lower again Thursday, giving up some of the big gains in New York that came after the Federal Reserve cooled the chances of an early summer interest rate hike.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for April delivery was down $1.11 to $43.55 while Brent crude for May tumbled 78 cents to $55.13 in afternoon trade.

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Yahoo Shutting down its Office in China

U.S. Internet company Yahoo is shutting down its presence in China, it said, with reports saying at least 200 people will be laid off.

The closure of the research centre in Beijing office will eliminate 200 to 300 jobs, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, quoting a person familiar with the matter.

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Israel Firm Announces Gas Deal with Egyptian Company

An Israeli partner in the Tamar gas field announced Wednesday a deal to sell natural gas to an Egyptian company, as Cairo said it knew nothing of the deal, which it must approve.

Delek said the partners would supply Dolphinus Holdings with at least five billion cubic meters (177 billion cubic feet) of gas over three years in a deal estimated at an overall $1.2 billion (962 million euros).

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Sweden Seeks to Calm Business Fears after Saudi Spat

Sweden's government said Wednesday it would hold urgent talks with business leaders to discuss concerns over trade with Gulf countries following a deepening diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia and criticism from the Arab League.

Sweden last week cut military ties with Saudi Arabia after Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem accused Riyadh of blocking her from making a speech at the Arab League about human rights.

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Greek Parliament Adopts Anti-Poverty Law despite EU Row

The Greek parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly adopted a "humanitarian crisis" bill aimed at helping its poorest people, ignoring apparent pressure from the European Union to halt the legislation.

This first package of social measures put forward by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' radical left-wing government drew support across the board in parliament, including from the conservative, former ruling New Democracy party.

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OECD: Cheap Money and Oil Fuel Improvement in Global Growth Outlook

Cheap oil and money have lifted the eurozone out of lethargy, the OECD said Wednesday, but it warned investment was lacking to achieve rapid world growth and expressed concerns about China.

"Growth prospects in the major economies look slightly better" than when it made its previous forecasts in November, the OECD said.

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Britain to Unveil Political Budget before Election

Britain's coalition government unveils a highly political budget Wednesday that will set the stage for a knife-edge election battle in 50 days' time.

Finance minister George Osborne from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party will deliver his 2015/2016 tax and spending plans at 1230 GMT.

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