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Tories favourites to win

British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party became favourites to win the most seats in May's general election for the first time in three years, according to bookmaker Ladbrokes.

The election is set to be the closest in a generation, with opinion polls showing Labour and the Conservatives almost level pegging, and both having lost support to smaller parties.

"The money now says that David Cameron could be staying on in Downing Street," said Matthew Shaddick, head of political odds at Ladbrokes.

McDonald's warning

McDonald's warned that business will be weak in the first half of 2015 and it is cutting its annual construction budget to the lowest in more than five years as it opens fewer restaurants in struggling markets.

The world's largest fast-food chain, with more than 36,000 restaurants around the globe, just finished one of its toughest years in decades.

It struggled to recover from a food scare in China that battered Asian sales and wrestled with economic weakness and political upheaval in Europe, its top revenue market.

The company also lost market share to rivals in the US, where its image has been dented by frequent protests from workers seeking higher wages.

Greek bailout woe

Greece will have to ask for a new extension to its bailout programme before €1.8bn in pending aid can be paid, a senior Eurozone official said yesterday.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters that a new government will need to be in place before a request can be made. Without an extension, Athens would also lose access to almost €11bn in EU bailout bonds now available to safeguard Greek bank capital needs.

German investment

Germany will use all the wiggle room it has in its budget to boost public investment, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said yesterday.

"We will increase our investment rate in coming years again and again," Schaeuble told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We will use all the room for manoeuvre which we have with our fiscal policy."

His comments come after Germany balanced its federal budget in 2014 for the first time in nearly half a century.

Berlin had been aiming to achieve the goal in 2015, and coalition sources have told Reuters that reaching the budget target one year early.rnment leeway.

Irish Independent