(For more stories on the Japanese economy, click [ID:nECONJP]) TOKYO, April 1 (Reuters) – Japanese manufacturers’ business sentiment improved slightly in the three months to March, the Bank of Japan’s closely watched tankan survey showed, but analysts anticipate a downturn in confidence this quarter following last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis.

By Peggy Gargis BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) – A man who kidnapped, robbed and killed an eastern Alabama couple in 1986 was executed by lethal injection on Thursday. William Glenn Boyd, 45, was pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m. local time at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, just hours after his last-minute request for a delay was denied.

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Yoko Nishikawa TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s nuclear crisis stretched to three weeks on Friday with radiation widening from a crippled power plant and scant hope of a quick resolution. France — the most nuclear-dependent in the world — called for new global nuclear rules and proposed a global conference in France for May as President Nicolas Sarkozy paid a quick visit to Tokyo on Thursday to show support. “We must look at this coldly so that such a catastrophe never occurs again,” said Sarkozy, who chairs the Group of 20 bloc of nations, during his brief stopover.

By Phil Stewart and Missy Ryan WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday it should not be up to Washington to train and assist Libyan rebels or do nation-building after any fall of Muammar Gaddafi — jobs better left to others. The comments by the outgoing defense chief, who is expected to retire this year, came during a day of tense testimony to Congress as lawmakers questioned whether the United States might deepen its involvement in Libya, where poorly organized rebels are struggling against better armed loyalist forces

By Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican lawmakers on Thursday pressed the Obama administration on its decision to stop work on a permanent nuclear waste storage site inside Yucca Mountain, Nevada, launching a formal probe and grilling the nuclear regulator on Capitol Hill. The House Energy and Commerce committee sent detailed lists of questions to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko probing decisions to stop work on the controversial dump site.

TOKYO, April 1 (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei average is expected to move in a narrow range on Friday as investors refrain from trading actively ahead of U.S. payroll data, with shares likely to be supported by a weaker yen against the dollar. Japanese shares could face slight selling pressure after Wall Street stocks fell the previous day, but the market might lack clear direction with investors wary about taking fresh positions ahead of the weekend, after the Nikkei posted solid gains over the last two sessions.

By Deepa Seetharaman DETROIT (Reuters) – U.S. auto supplier Delphi has bought stakes in the company held by General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote , Profile , Research ) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation for about $4.4 billion in a bid to simplify its capital structure. Delphi purchased Class A interests owned by GM for $3.8 billion, the company said in a release on Thursday

By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) – The wealthy Texas brothers Samuel and Charles Wyly on Thursday lost their bid to dismiss a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit accusing them of orchestrating a $550 million securities fraud and committing insider trading. U.S