By Lisa Twaronite TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares shrugged off weak U.S. data overnight that raised concerns ahead of Friday's key employment figures, and logged gains on Thursday as investors covered positions ahead of the Easter holidays. Japan's Nikkei stock average ended 1.5 percent higher, after skidding to a three-week low in the previous session.
Oil futures fell on Thursday, retreating from big gains in the previous session, as the prospect that any deal in nuclear talks with Tehran and a possible increase in its crude exports helped to keep pressure on prices. Major powers and Iran have stretched talks on Tehran's nuclear program into a second day past an end-March deadline, with diplomats saying the chances for a preliminary deal were balanced between success and collapse. Both Brent and U.S crude prices snapped three-session losing streaks on Wednesday, gaining $2 or more after data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed a fall in rigs drilling for oil resulted in a drop in U.S. output last week for the first time since late-December. Brent crude for May delivery was down 46 cents at $56.64 a barrel by 3.06 a.m. ET.
By Elizabeth Dilts PITTSBURGH(Reuters) - Secret contracts, covert real-estate deals, scurrying around after nightfall to avoid detection: this is how far big-bank brokers are prepared to go when they plan to go independent. The Botkin Group, a team of brokers in Pittsburgh who produced $1.6 million in revenue last year for Morgan Stanley, went so far as to require non-disclosure agreements from contractors who made new signs, installed phones and delivered furniture to their new office. "We felt like we worked for the CIA," said Lester H. Botkin, 35, the youngest of the group, which also includes his father, Lester P. Botkin, 63, sister, Sara Botkin, 37, and one client service associate. They represent growing numbers of brokers who are leaving big bank brokerages, such as Morgan Stanley, Bank of America's Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo Advisors and UBS Group AG to branch out on their own.
By Adam Jourdan SHANGHAI (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it will cease its vaccines sales operations in China after an import license for one of its top-selling treatments, the only vaccine it sold in the country, was not renewed. A Pfizer spokeswoman declined to say why the Chinese import license for Prevenar, an anti-bacterial treatment, had not been renewed. The China Food and Drug Administration regulatory agency could not immediately be reached for comment. The move comes as drugmakers face growing difficulties obtaining approvals for medicines in China, the world's No. 2 drug market, where pharmaceutical executives say over-stretched regulators have added more red tape to the process of bringing drugs to market.
McDonald's Corp plans to raise the average pay of about 90,000 U.S. workers to around $10 an hour, but the increase will not benefit workers at the vast majority of the restaurants, because they are operated by franchisees, who make their own wage decisions. Workers groups said the move by McDonald's, which is also adding benefits such as paid vacations, fell short of their goals. McDonald's, which announced the increases on Wednesday, has been fighting weak traffic and slumping sales in the United States. Starting wages at the restaurants will move to $1 above the locally mandated minimum wage.