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Morning business round-up: Oil price up

What made the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

The price of US sweet, light crude has hit a new two-and-a-half year high, rising above $108 a barrel. The price has been lifted by a combination of Friday's strong US jobs data and continuing worries about the situation in Libya.

BP is reported to be seeking an agreement that would allow it to restart drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, where a BP rig explosion last year killed 15 workers and caused a huge oil spill. US regulators have dismissed reports of a "done deal", but it is thought that BP has been given informal approval.

Vodafone is to sell its 44% stake in the French mobile phone operator SFR to Vivendi for 7.95bn euros ($11.3bn). The deal gives Vivendi, France's biggest mobile phone business, full control of SFR and ends months of talks with Vodafone. The deal is expected to be completed by June.

The number of Spanish people claiming unemployment benefit has hit a record high. The figure rose by 34,406 in March, to a new record of 4.3 million, according to the Labour Ministry.

Japan's big manufacturers say they expect conditions to worsen in the coming three months, according to the Bank of Japan's Tankan survey. But the decline in business sentiment was not as bad as many expected, leading to questions of accuracy.

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March have lead to rolling power blackouts and a nuclear crisis.

The natural disasters that hit Australia will cost its economy A$9bn ($9.4bn; £5.8bn), according to the Treasury department. The latest figure is a substantial increase on an earlier estimate. The Australian states of Queensland and Victoria were hit by floods and a cyclone in January and February.

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An Indian parliamentary panel has begun its questioning on the controversial award of telecoms licences. Police say that in 2007-08, when India issued 122 new telecoms licences, several rules were violated and bribes were paid to favour certain firms.

To hear about some of the wider trends in the world of business, click through to our Business Daily podcast which today explores the issue of what happens to company deals once a regime falls.

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