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Central banks in Europe hold the line on interest rates

FRANKFURT, Germany — The European Central Bank left its main interest rate unchanged Thursday, as policymakers waited to see whether signs of improving growth meant that the eurozone economy had already put the worst behind it.

Separately, the Bank of England also left its benchmark rate unchanged Thursday at a record low but decided to expand its asset-buying program by 50 billion pounds, or $79 billion, to 325 billion pounds to help the British economy avoid falling back into a recession.

Some major economic indicators in the eurozone have been better than expected recently, raising hopes that a downturn at the end of 2011 would prove to be short-lived. But the picture is muddy, and turmoil in Greece continues to pose a threat to European economies.

Mario Draghi, the ECB president, gave a slightly more upbeat assessment of the eurozone economy Thursday, saying there were “tentative signs of a stabilization in economic activity at a low level.”

“We expect the euro area economy to recover very gradually in the course of 2012,” he said at a news conference after the monthly monetary policy meeting of the central bank’s governing council.

—Jack Ewing and Julia Werdigier, The New York Times

Obama nominee passes, despite threat

The “heck no” caucus in the Senate fizzled in its first test.

After President Barack Obama stiff-armed the Senate in January and made four recess appointments, even though the Senate was technically not in recess, some Republicans vowed revenge. They said they would oppose every Obama nominee for the rest of the year, no matter who it was, no matter how bipartisan the support.

But from the start, it was clear that many Republicans were squeamish about such a blanket tactic, and in their first engagement with the enemy on Thursday, the revenge seekers lost. Cathy Ann Bencivengo, nominated to be a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of California, was confirmed, 90-6.

Those voting no were all Republicans: Sens. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jim Risch of Idaho and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama.

—Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times

Google is at work on an `entertainment device’

SAN FRANCISCO — Google is developing a home entertainment device, according to people with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The device, which exists as a prototype and will eventually be sold as a branded item to consumers, is the company’s most significant venture into hardware. While its initial purpose will be for streaming music, its eventual use could be much larger.

Larry Page, who last year took the reins of the company he co-founded, has been intent on moving into hardware. To compete with Apple and Amazon, Google thinks it has to have greater control over production.

Next week, Google is likely to complete its acquisition of the handset maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. That purchase puts Google into direct competition with the phone makers that use its Android software as well as Apple and its iPhone. The leader in desktop search, Google did not want to be left behind as computing went mobile.

—David Streitfeld and Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times