Among the stories Wednesday from The Associated Press:

Among the stories Wednesday from The Associated Press:



NEW YORK — If you want an income, or you're an employer looking for help, it's probably time to scrap the idea of the traditional 9-to-5. Freelancing and independent contracting is becoming a more accepted way for companies to fill their needs and for people to earn money. By Joseph Pisani. SENT: 750 words, photos. Eds: This story subs for SmallBiz-Small Talk.


— FUTURE OF WORK-PROS AND CONS — What you need to know if you want to be a freelancer, or hire one. SENT: 180 words.


FRANKFURT, Germany — The European Central Bank raises its forecast for inflation this year to 0.3 percent from zero previously, another indication that the risk of crippling deflation — a long-term drop in prices — may be fading in Europe. By David McHugh. SENT: 460 words, photo.



FRANKFURT, Germany — The European Central Bank keeps its key interest rate on hold as expected, leaving investors to look ahead to President Mario Draghi's comments due later, particularly for any news about Greece. By David McHugh. SENT: 410 words. UPCOMING: Will be updated.


NEW YORK — Upgrading your phone is no longer as simple as paying $100 or $200 and extending your service contract by two years. A guide to the myriad of phone-upgrade options. By Anick Jesdanun. SENT: 860 words, photo.



WASHINGTON — U.S. companies step up hiring in May, evidence that employers remain confident in the economy even after it contracted at the start of the year. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: 440 words, photo.


WASHINGTON — U.S. service firms grow at a slower pace in May, as both new orders and hiring slipped. By Josh Boak. SENT: 130 words, photo. UPCOMING: 350 words by 10:45 a.m.


WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit declines sharply in April as exports post a modest gain and imports fall, raising hopes that trade will not be as big a drag on overall growth in the current quarter. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 670 words, photo.


NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rise in early trading as investors welcome encouraging news about the job market. By Bernard Condon. SENT: 540 words, photo. UPCOMING: 700 words, photo.


— GLOBAL ECONOMY — The world economy risks being bogged down in a low growth spiral unless measures are taken to spur demand and incite businesses to boost their stubbornly sluggish investments. SENT: 340 words, photo.



NEW DELHI — Indian shopkeepers withdraw a popular brand of Nestle instant noodles from their shelves after tests revealed the snack contained unsafe levels of lead. By Nirmala George. SENT: 760 words, photos.


Eastern Star, the cruise ship that capsized in the Yangtze river with more than 450 people aboard, was cited for safety violations two years ago, records show. Authorities are bound to scrutinize the Eastern Star's safety record and that of its owner, Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corp., as they investigate why the ship capsized late Monday, leaving more 420 people unaccounted for. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 830 words, photos.


STOCKHOLM — As a global agreement to rein in climate-warming carbon emissions draws closer, oil and gas companies are increasingly talking about coal as the problem and describing themselves as a crucial part of the solution, together with renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. By Karl Ritter. SENT: 600 words, photo.

— PATRIOT COAL — Blackhawk Mining LLC is offering to buy most of bankrupt Patriot Coal Corp.'s assets. By John Raby. SENT: 600 words.

— LOS ANGELES-MINIMUM WAGE — Los Angeles is set to take a final vote on becoming the latest big U.S. city to endorse a hike in the minimum wage. SENT: 210 words. UPCOMING: Will be updated after 1 p.m. meeting.

— UNITEDHEALTH-DIVIDEND HIKE — UnitedHealth Group is raising its cash dividend by more than 30 percent once again, as the nation's largest health insurer keeps pace with its rising stock price. SENT: 220 words.


— SKOREA-COUPANG— Coupang, a South Korean online shopping site, has secured a $1 billion investment from Japanese Internet company Softbank Corp. By Youkyung Lee. SENT: 260 words.



ATHENS, Greece — A chunky text look at what options Greece faces as its debts come due this month and a deal with creditors remains elusive. By Elena Becatoros. UPCOMING: 800 words by 11 a.m.


— GREECE-BAILOUT — Greece's prime minister is heading to high-level meetings in Brussels to try to persuade the country's creditors to accept a proposal that might unlock much-delayed bailout loans and save the country from financial disaster. By Elena Becatoros. SENT: 760 words, photos. UPCOMING: Will be updated throughout day.