WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:
The Australian dollar has fallen below 78 US cents for the first time in five and a half years amid expectations that the Reserve Bank will cut the cash rate next week.
At 0630 AEDT on Friday, the local unit was trading at 77.48 US cents, down from 78.75 cents on Thursday.
The Australian share market looks set to open higher, following strong gains on Wall Street.
At 0653 AEDT on Friday, the March share price index futures contract was up 47 points at 5,553.
WASHINGTON - The number of people seeking unemployment aid in the United States plunged last week to the lowest level in almost 15 years, a sign that hiring will likely remain healthy.
LONDON - Energy group Royal Dutch Shell has announced an eight-per cent drop in annual net profits owing to a slump in global oil prices and said it would accelerate spending cuts.
DEARBORN, Michigan - Ford's net income tumbled in the fourth quarter as the company took an expected charge to deal with currency devaluation at its Venezuelan operations.
MOSCOW - Russia's gas giant Gazprom says its third quarter profits plunged 61 per cent as supplies were suspended to Ukraine, one of its main customers.
LONDON - Diageo, the British maker of alcoholic drinks, has reported slump in profits, hit by falling sales of whisky in China and economic strains in Venezuela and Russia.
HELSINKI - Finnish telecom equipment group Nokia has reported a sharp rise in annual net profit, boosted by a substantial one-off tax-related gain and strong North America sales in the fourth quarter.
NEW YORK - Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba says its net profit for the three months ending December plunged 28 per cent to $US964 million ($A1.22 billion), hit by a one-off charge and higher taxes.