Business News at 1:50 p.m.

Business News at 1:50 p.m.

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All times EDT.

TOP STORIES:

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy nearly stopped growing in the January-March quarter, squeezed by a combination of factors that will likely prove temporary (a harsh winter) or longer-lasting (a higher-valued dollar hurting corporate profits). Here are the key factors for the barely discernible 0.2 percent annual growth rate in the first quarter, the poorest showing in a year, and which factors are worth worrying about. By Martin Crutsinger and Christopher S. Rugaber. UPCOMING: 800 words by 3:30 p.m.

With:

FEDERAL RESERVE

WASHINGTON — The financial world will be scrutinizing the policy statement from the Federal Reserve for any clues to the timing of the first increase in its benchmark rate, which has been held at a record low since 2008. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 770 words. UPCOMING: Will be updated with release of Fed statement, 2 p.m.

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK

NEW YORK — The recession isn't a dim memory for many small businesses. Nearly two-thirds of owners in a Bank of America survey say their companies are still recovering from the downturn that officially ended nearly six years ago. By Joyce Rosenberg. SENT: 800 words, photos.

With:

— SMALL BUSINESS PULSE — Bank of America releases the results of its twice-yearly survey on small business optimism. SENT: 280 words.

BUD LIGHT-APOLOGY

NEW YORK — Anheuser-Busch is apologizing on a slogan that appeared on bottles saying Bud Light removes the word 'no' from drinkers' vocabulary. SENT: 200 words.

HOJO'S LAST STAND

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. — With one recent closing in New York's Adirondacks, there are now only two remaining Howard Johnson's restaurants, one in Lake George, N.Y., the other in Bangor, Maine. And the future of the Maine eatery is in doubt. By Michael Hill. SENT: 720 words, photos, video.

CHINA-FILM FACTORY

BEIJING — The Internet, big data on online users and private capital are driving rapid changes in China's booming movie industry as an influx of new investors chases quick bucks over cinematic quality. By Louise Watt. SENT: 900 words, photos.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

PENDING HOME SALES

WASHINGTON — More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, the third straight month of gains as housing heats up with the start of the spring buying season. By Josh Boak. SENT: 490 words.

FINANCIAL MARKETS

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks fall following news that the economy skidded to a near halt in the first three months of the year, battered by harsh weather, plunging exports and sharp cutbacks in oil and gas drilling. Investors are also waiting for a statement from the Federal Reserve in the afternoon following its latest policy meeting. By Steve Rothwell. SENT: 430 words, photo. UPCOMING: 700 words by 5 p.m.

EARNINGS:

GERMANY-EARNS-VOLKSWAGEN

FRANKFURT, Germany — Automaker Volkswagen says first quarter profit rose 19 percent as cost-cutting improved profit margins at its namesake brand and European auto sales show a modest recovery. By David McHugh. SENT: 480 words.

With:

— VOLKSWAGEN-UNION — The latest United Auto Workers disclosure with the U.S. Department of Labor shows the union has 816 members at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, or 55 percent of the blue collar work force. By Erik Schelzig. SENT: 720 words.

— EARNS-FIAT CHRYSLER — Higher sales of the Jeep Renegade small SUV and Chrysler 200 midsize sedan in North America along with modest growth in Europe pushes Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV back to profit in the first quarter. By Colleen Barry. SENT: 320 words, photo.

— EARNS-GOODYEAR TIRE — Strong performance in North America and a royalty payment helped The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. overcome the impact of a strong dollar and beat Wall Street's profit expectations. SENT: 260 words, photo.

— EARNS-MASTERCARD — Credit and debit card payment processor MasterCard says its profit rose 17 percent in the first quarter, as consumers across the globe spent more on their MasterCards. By Ken Sweet. SENT: 270 words, photo.

— EARNS-ANTHEM — Anthem's first-quarter earnings jump 23 percent thanks in part to a spike in Medicaid enrollment, and it became the latest health insurer to raise its forecast for the year after breezing past Wall Street's expectations. By Tom Murphy. SENT: 560 words, photo.

— BRITAIN-EARNS-BARCLAYS — Barclays sets aside an additional 800 million pounds ($1.2 billion) to cover the cost of allegations that it manipulated foreign exchange markets as Britain's second-biggest bank seeks to put the scandals of the past behind it. By Danica Kirka. SENT: 300 words, photos.

— CHINA-EARNS-AGRICULTURAL BANK — Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., one of the country's four major state-owned commercial lenders, says its quarterly profit edged up just 1.5 percent as the country's economic growth slowed. SENT: 200 words.

INDUSTRY:

HEALTH INSURERS-GREATER EXPECTATIONS

Several of the nation's biggest health insurers have hiked earnings expectations for 2015 after blowing past first-quarter forecasts and heading into a much more stable future than they faced this time last year. A better understanding of the health care overhaul's impact, less severe Medicare Advantage funding cuts and old-fashioned business growth all are combining to deliver a confidence boost to much of the sector. By Tom Murphy. UPCOMING: 600 words by 2 p.m.

LUMBER LIQUIDATORS-FLOORING

The Justice Department is seeking criminal charges against Lumber Liquidators in an ongoing investigation over imported products. At the same time, the company says it is continuing to diversify its laminate flooring offerings as it deals with fallout from a TV report that raised concerns over formaldehyde levels in Chinese-made flooring. SENT: 340 words.

— JAPAN-TAKEDA — Japan's largest drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. says it has agreed to pay up to $2.4 billion to thousands of patients and their families over its diabetes drug Actos which has been linked to cancer. SENT: 390 words.

— TROPICANA-SALE — The Tropicana hotel and casino in Las Vegas is being sold for $360 million. SENT: 140 words.

— LISTERIA-HY-VEE PASTA SALAD — Hy-Vee Inc. says it is recalling Hy-Vee Summer Fresh Pasta because of a potential listeria contamination. SENT: 140 words.

— MEMPHIS-PYRAMID-BASS PRO — Shaped like an Egyptian wonder, the Memphis landmark known as the Pyramid stopped being a regular venue for basketball games and concerts in 2004, sitting largely unused for 11 years. But it's time for the Pyramid to be reborn, opening as the newest location for Bass Pro Shops. By Adrian Sainz. SENT: 850 words, photos.

— STARWOOD HOTELS-STRATEGIC REVIEW — Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide says its board of directors will explore all of the options and strategic options for the hotel company, which could include a potential sale. SENT: 200 words.

— ARCTIC OFFSHORE DRILLING-PROTEST — Attorneys for Royal Dutch Shell PLC present testimony to a federal court judge that the company needs safety zones around its Arctic drill fleet to prevent Greenpeace USA activists from endangering company workers and themselves. By Dan Joling. SENT: 620 words.

— CONTROVERSIAL BUS ADS — The nation's largest mass transit system bans all political advertising on its subways and buses after a judge ruled that a pro-Israel group was allowed to display an advertisement containing the phrase "Hamas Killing Jews" on New York City buses. SENT: 520 words.

— NASCAR-DANICA-GODADDY — Danica Patrick is losing GoDaddy as her primary car sponsor. The internet domain giant has decided to pull its sponsorship of Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet, which is fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing. SENT: 900 words.

— SUPREME COURT-EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION — A unanimous Supreme Court says there must be some judicial oversight to make sure the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is trying hard enough to settle charges of job discrimination before filing lawsuits against employers. SENT: 530 words.

—OBIT-WEIGHT WATCHERS FOUNDER — Jean Nidetch, a New York housewife who tackled her own obesity problem, then shared her guiding principles with others in meetings that became known as Weight Watchers, the most widely known company of its kind, died Wednesday. She was 91. SENT: 800 words.

— BERNANKE-PIMCO — Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will serve as a senior adviser at global investment firm Pacific Investment Management Co. SENT: 450 words.

— MYLAN-PERRIGO — Generic drugmaker Mylan is raising its offer for over-the-counter medicines maker Perrigo, which rejected Mylan's first bid on Friday. SENT: 560 words.

— SEC-PAY FOR PERFORMANCE — Federal regulators have taken a step toward requiring public companies to show the relationship between the compensation of their top executives and the company's financial performance. SENT: 140 words.

— TIFFANY COLLECTION-AUCTION — A collection of Tiffany works and prewar design assembled by a Chicago businessman is going on the auction block in New York. SENT: 140 words.

— AMERICAN AIRLINES-DELAYS — More than 50 American Airlines flights have been delayed in the past two days by a glitch in navigation-map software loaded on pilots' iPads. SENT: 240 words.

— KROGER-CENTRAL INDIANA — Kroger will build 11 new stores and expand or remodel 22 others in a $465 million central Indiana expansion that will create 3,440 permanent jobs plus construction jobs. SENT: 130 words.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

MICROSOFT-BIG SHOW

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft shows off Windows 10 and other tech initiatives before an army of software developers who may be crucial allies in its campaign to build enthusiasm among consumers for the next version of its flagship operating system, coming later this year. SENT: 720 words. UPCOMING: Will be updated throughout the day.

DIGITAL LIFE-REVIEW-FACEBOOK'S HOME-GROWN APPS

Facebook wants to fill your home screen with a family of home-grown apps. Who might need them? By Barbara Ortutay. SENT: 780 words, photos.

STATE OF NEWS MEDIA

NEW YORK — More visitors to Yahoo, NBC and other top Internet sites are getting their news from mobile devices than from desktop computers, according to a report by the Pew Research Center's Journalism Project. By Hillel Italie. SENT: 620 words, photos.

— PEOPLE-JAY Z-TIDAL — Jay Z is breaking out his B-sides to hype his fledgling music streaming service, Tidal. SENT: 130 words, photo.

— HULU-SEINFELD AND AMC — As people increasingly turn to the Internet for their TV fix, Hulu is adding "Seinfeld" episodes and future AMC series to its lineup. SENT: 170 words.

— BUD LIGHT-APOLOGY — Anheuser-Busch is apologizing for a slogan that appeared on bottles saying Bud Light removes the word 'no' from drinkers' vocabulary. SENT: 330 words.

— GLOBAL PRESS FREEDOM — Terrorists are targeting journalists, authoritarian governments are jailing them and some countries are tightening media controls, developments that help explain why global press freedom in 2014 fell to the lowest point in more than 10 years, a democracy watchdog group said Wednesday. SENT: 340 words.

— GAMES-DESTINY— When the latest expansion to the hugely ambitious but frequently maligned video game "Destiny" is released May 19, it won't merely feature a new social area, multiplayer mode and maps. "House of Wolves" will also aim to right several wrongs as developer Bungie and publisher Activision look to the future. SENT: 140 words.

INTERNATIONAL:

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece — Greece says it will discuss with its creditors a draft bill of reforms it hopes will earn their approval and pave the way for the unlocking of vitally needed bailout funds. By Elena Becatoros. SENT: 580 words, photos.

— IRAN-GULF INCIDENT — The operator of a U.S.-flagged cargo vessel boarded by Iranian forces as it was traversing the Strait of Hormuz says the crew is safe but that the company is still trying to determine why the ship was seized. SENT: 740 words.

— PORTUGAL-CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION — Portugal's Attorney-General's office says officials are searching government offices and other locations as part of a corruption and money-laundering investigation centered on the granting of residence permits to investors from outside the European Union. SENT: 150 words.

— EMIRATES-AIR ARABIA — Middle Eastern budget airline Air Arabia says it plans to launch a new division based in Jordan starting on May 18. SENT: 120 words.

— VENEZUELA-CHOCOLATE — William Machado worked all winter harvesting palm-sized yellow cacao pods and drying the flavorful beans inside. He's part of a chocolate trade that is one of this South American county's most prized industries, but Machado increasingly fears his hard work may be in vain, squandered by a freeze on exports. SENT: 800 words.

— BRAZIL-PETROBRAS — Top executives from several big Brazilian construction and engineering firms left prison Thursday but will remain under house arrest for their alleged role in a massive kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras. SENT: 300 words.

PERSONAL FINANCE:

ON THE MONEY-MANAGING YOUR PORTFOLIO

The Nasdaq composite index is trading at a record high, and that may trigger some bad memories, but investors shouldn't worry. By Joseph Pisani. UPCOMING: 700 words by 3 p.m.

A sampling of Money & Markets modules is below. The full digest for AP's Money & Markets service can be found at markets.ap.org. For questions about Money & Markets content, please contact Trevor Delaney (800-845-8450, ext. 1807). For technical support: Todd Balog (816-654-1096). After 6 p.m., contact the AP Business News desk (800-845-8450, ext. 1680) for content questions; 1-800-3AP-STOX for technical support and 212-621-1905 for graphics help.

CENTERPIECE

Fund flight

See you later, Uncle Sam. Investors are pulling out of U.S. stocks and plunging instead into foreign markets. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.