Analysis: Finally, crystal-clear clarity in French election

PARIS (AP) -- When France's presidential election turned into a political boxing match this week at the gates of an appliance factory threatened with closure, the far-right populist Marine Le Pen showed that she wields a mean right hook. Her centrist rival, Emmanuel Macron, a political neophyte contesting his first election, demonstrated that he can take a solid punch to the chin.

Moldova detains officials suspected of embezzling EU money

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) -- Moldovan anti-corruption prosecutors have detained the transport minister and a senior road management official on suspicion of embezzling European Union funds. Prosecutors detained Transportation Minister Iurie Chirinciuc and the interim manager of Moldova's State Road Management, Veaceslav Teleman, on Thursday after searching their offices and the offices of two private companies. The companies' owners also were detained. Chirinciuc called his detention "a political show." He has not been formally charged.

European automakers warn of Brexit dislocation

LONDON (AP) -- European automakers and suppliers are warning about the damage that Britain's departure from the European Union could mean to the industry. The comments come just days before the European Union will hold a summit with the other 27 EU nations to agree on guidelines for talks on the exit, or Brexit. The auto association is underscoring the damage that Brexit could bring to an industry that employs 12.2 million people.

After Whirlpool battle, Le Pen and Macron clash over fish

PARIS (AP) -- After "the battle of Whirlpool," when Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron both went hunting for France's blue-collar vote at a threatened home appliance factory, the presidential candidates clashed over fish in a return to more traditional campaigning on Thursday. The anti-European Union far-right populist Le Pen was up before dawn to cruise aboard a fishing trawler on the Mediterranean.

Spain jobless rate at 18.8 percent, halting downward trend

MADRID (AP) -- Spain's unemployment rate edged up slightly to 18.8 percent in the first quarter, partly due to the end of temporary jobs tied to the winter holiday, and interrupting an overall downward trend in recent years. National Statistics Institute said Thursday that the number of people out of work rose by 17,200 in January through March to a rounded 4.3 million.

Markets subdued in the wake of Trump's tax plans

LONDON (AP) -- Global stocks were subdued Thursday as investors assessed the scant details of President Donald Trump's U.S. tax overhaul. The Bank of Japan and European Central Bank kept their policies on hold as expected, though the euro took a modest hit when ECB President Mario Draghi said he wasn't confident that inflation across the 19-country eurozone was heading toward target. KEEPING SCORE: European shares fell with France's CAC 40 down 0.

Arkansas' set to conclude executions with 4th on Thursday

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas' aggressive effort to execute condemned inmates is set to conclude Thursday after the state Supreme Court refused to halt the execution of a man who killed a former deputy prison warden following an escape. Kenneth Williams, 38, was sentenced to death for killing Cecil Boren after escaping from the Cummins Unit prison in a barrel of hog slop.

Turkish opposition to challenge referendum at European court

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's main opposition party said Wednesday it would challenge the outcome of the country's April 16 referendum on expanding the president's powers at the European Court of Human Rights a day after a high court rejected its appeal. The pro-secular Republican People's Party, or CHP, is disputing the referendum, which gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "yes" side a narrow victory.

The Latest: Macron wants more retraining for French workers

AMIENS, France (AP) -- The Latest on the French presidential runoff on May 7 (all times local): 4:10 p.m. French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is defending his campaign platform in a heated impromptu meeting outside a factory with workers who face losing their jobs to a plant in Poland.

EU expresses hope of Greek bailout cash payment soon

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's head office says Greece is delivering on its fiscal targets and that an agreement to hand more bailout cash to Athens could come next month. EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said Wednesday that Greece continues to show progress on its budget targets and held out hope of an agreement between Greece and its bailout creditors from the 19-country eurozone and the International Monetary Fund soon.

Anti-Brexit advocate launches tactical UK voting campaign

LONDON (AP) -- Businesswoman Gina Miller, who took the British government to court in a successful bid to win Parliament a vote on Brexit, launched a campaign Wednesday to back pro-EU candidates at the ballot box. Miller has raised 300,000 pounds ($385,000) in a week through crowd-funding for a campaign to support tactical voting in Britain's June 8 general election.

EU launches talks to defend work, living conditions

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union is launching talks with unions and employers to ensure that people's work and living conditions are protected as they turn to alternative jobs like self-driving taxis or fast food deliveries. The EU Commission said Wednesday that debate is needed across the 28 nations as job market changes increase the risk that people might be deprived of unemployment benefits or health insurance.

Germany raises 2017 growth forecast to 1.5 percent

BERLIN (AP) -- The German government slightly raised its growth forecast this year for the country's economy, Europe's biggest, to 1.5 percent on Wednesday. It predicted that the economy will expand by 1.6 percent in 2018. The government had forecast in January that gross domestic product would grow by 1.4 percent this year following last year's 1.9 percent expansion. This year's growth is expected to be lower because more public holidays fall on weekdays.

Alitalia faces bankruptcy after employees vote down plan

ROME (AP) -- The risk of bankruptcy looms for Italy's flagship airline, Alitalia, after employees resoundingly rejected proposed salary cuts and layoffs that were aimed at securing investments and keeping the carrier afloat. It's the latest twist in the decades-long saga of decline for the loss-making company, which has been through multiple bailouts and restructurings but never managed to compete with the booming low-cost carriers in Europe.

EU investigators probe Swedish mobile telecoms firms

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's competition watchdog says investigators have launched surprise inspections at a number of Swedish mobile telecoms companies amid concerns over a possible cartel. The European Commission said that Tuesday's inspections are a first step in the investigation of anti-competitive practices. It did not name any of the companies targeted.

ECB unlikely to signal stimulus end, despite French optimism

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Europe's strengthening economy dodged a banana peel when a pro-EU candidate won the first round of the French presidential election. That won't be enough, however, to make the European Central Bank signal an end to monetary stimulus program on Thursday. Nor will Sunday's result by itself fix the long-term flaws that have plagued the continent's shared currency, the euro.