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Oil Down in Asian Trade

Oil dropped in afternoon Asian trade Friday after US data showed the country's crude stocks declined less than expected, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February delivery, dropped 34 cents to 89.50 dollars per barrel in the afternoon.

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Pope to Publish New Anti-Money Laundering Decree in Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI is set to publish a decree on Thursday to fight money-laundering in the Vatican, three months after an investigation was launched into two senior figures at the Vatican bank.

Benedict's 'Moto Proprio' document, which will be published at noon (1100 GMT), concerns "the prevention and opposition to illegal financial activity," according to a Holy See press release.

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Swiss Franc Hits record High

The Swiss franc strengthened on Thursday to new highs against the U.S. dollar, Euro and the British Pound, as investors turned to the refuge currency amid weakness in other industrialized economies.

The euro slumped below the barrier of 1.24 francs in early morning trade, trading at just 1.2396 francs.

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‘White Knight’ China for Crisis-Hit Europe

China, already the banker to the United States and a major investor in emerging markets, is now positioning itself as the potential "white knight" savior to debt-laden Europe, analysts say.

Beijing has vowed to support European countries struggling under mountains of debt by buying their government bonds, which experts say could help ease tensions over a range of trade issues as well as boost China's global standing.

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Zain Can Open Books to Etisalat

A Kuwaiti court ruled on Wednesday that Kuwait-based Zain telecom can open its books for due diligence to the Emirati firm Etisalat which has offered to buy a majority stake in Zain.

Al-Fawares Holding, a leading private investor in Zain, had filed a lawsuit against opening the books, on the grounds that it had not seen an official purchase offer from Etisalat.

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Qatar, Shell Mull Six Billion Dollar Chemical Project

Qatar Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell agreed on Tuesday to study building a petrochemical project worth six billion dollars in Ras Laffan by 2016.

The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding in the Qatari capital Doha under which they will jointly study development of the project, a statement said.

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Greece Paralyzed by New Anti-Austerity Strike

Clouds of tear gas mingled with smoke in Athens and a former minister was reportedly hurt as police and stone-throwing protesters clashed Wednesday during a demonstration against new austerity measures.

Protesters set garbage bins and cars on fire outside a trio of luxury hotels on central Syntagma Square and threw projectiles at riot police during the union-backed demonstration that attracted some 20,000 participants, according to police.

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Nissan, Mitsubishi Boost Ties, Target Middle East Market

Japan's Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors said Tuesday they would deepen cooperation in making cars as the firms seek out new markets and try to counter the effects of a strong yen.

The firms also said they were looking at a possible tie-up that will pool resources to deal with ever-tougher domestic and overseas markets.

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Asia Retail Sales Tipped to be Double U.S. by 2014

Incentives to kickstart spending by Asian governments after the global downturn will help the region post retail sales almost double those of North America within four years, a report said on Monday.

The region will also post sales three times more than Western Europe, said the study by account PricewaterhouseCoopers, as it bounces back from the global downturn, which hammered demand for exports, a key economic growth driver.

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Germany, France Vow to Defend Euro

The German and French leaders vowed Friday to do whatever is needed to defend the euro, but stood by their rejection of the idea of pan-European bonds or an extension of the euro750 billion ($1 trillion) rescue fund.

The two countries, the eurozone's largest economies and its bankrollers, are at odds with many other nations on how best to fight the debt crisis from spreading and forcing more expensive bailouts.

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