Yellen: Persistent economic weakness could slow rate hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen cautioned Wednesday that global weakness and falling financial markets could depress the U.S. economy's growth and slow the pace of Fed interest rate hikes.

But Yellen made clear that the Fed won't likely find it necessary to cut rates after having raised them from record lows in December. She did concede, though, that negative rates, which central banks in Japan and Europe have recently imposed, are a tool the Fed has at least studied.


Twitter tweaks its timeline in pursuit of more users

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Twitter is tweaking the way that tweets appear in its users' timelines in its latest attempt to broaden the appeal of its service.

The change announced Wednesday moves Twitter closer to a formula that Facebook uses to determine the order of posts appearing in its users' news feeds.

It's a risky move for Twitter because it threatens to infuriate many of its 320 million users who like things the way they are. But the company can't afford to stand pat with its user growth slowing dramatically and its stock price plummeting.


Computer as driver? 'Yes' from feds boosts self-driving cars

DETROIT (AP) Computers that control cars of the future can be considered drivers just like humans, the federal government's highway safety agency has decided.

The redefinition of "driver" by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an important break for Google, which is developing self-driving cars.

While this helps Google, its cars have miles to go before they get on the road in great numbers. The safety agency agreed with Google's "driver" reinterpretation in a recent letter, but it didn't allow other concessions and said numerous federal rules would have to be changed to permit the cars.


Tesla's 4Q net loss doubles

DETROIT (AP) Tesla Motors posted its 11th straight quarterly loss Wednesday, and its results badly missed Wall Street's forecasts. But the electric car maker's shares soared anyway on news that its lower-priced Model 3 sedan is on schedule to be released next year.

Tesla said it will unveil the much-anticipated $35,000 car on March 31 and expects to start production at the end of 2017.

Tesla's shares had fallen in recent days as investors worried that the Model 3 would be delayed. Investors also weren't happy with the slow ramp-up of Tesla's new Model X SUV. The company delivered only 206 SUVs in the fourth quarter and it curtailed production last month to work out some quality issues.


Whole Foods forecasts key sales figure could slip for year

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Whole Foods Market Inc. says its sales at established locations slipped in its fiscal first quarter, and forecast the figure to be flat to down 2 percent for the year.

The company noted that its comparable store sales have been "particularly difficult to predict" given the competitive environment. Whole Foods has been under pressure as its niche has become increasingly mainstream, with big-box retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart devoting more space to organic and other related items.


Mylan to buy Sweden's Meda AB for $7.2 billion

NEW YORK (AP) Drugmaker Mylan says it will buy Meda AB of Sweden for $7.2 billion in cash and stock, and says the move will help it enter new markets.

Mylan valued the deal at $9.9 billion including Meda's debt. It said Wednesday Meda's board and largest shareholders support the sale.

Meda says about 60 percent of its sales come from prescription drugs. Key products include drugs that treat respiratory conditions, skin ailments, and pain and inflammation.


Staples gets EU approval for acquisition of Office Depot

NEW YORK (AP) Staples has received European approval for its buyout of Office Depot and in exchange, it said Wednesday that it would split off some operations in Europe to allay monopoly fears.

The company will divest all of Office Depot's operations in Sweden, as well as European retail, contract, online and catalog operations in an agreement with the European Commission. But the $6.3 billion still needs approval in Canada at home in the U.S., which is far from assured.


VW, Audi, BMW recall nearly 1.7M vehicles in air bag mess

DETROIT (AP) Volkswagen, Audi and BMW are recalling nearly 1.7 million vehicles with Takata air bag inflators that can rupture and hurl shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

The moves announced Wednesday bring to just over 5.1 million the number of vehicles in the latest round of Takata recalls.

VW and Audi said Wednesday they would recall a total of 850,000 vehicles in the U.S. from model years 2006 to 2014. BMW added 840,000 later in the day for the same problem.


Asahi offers to buy Peroni, Grolsch beers from AB Inbev

LONDON (AP) Budweiser-maker AB InBev has received a binding offer of 2.55 billion euros ($2.85 billion) for the European beer brands Grolsch, Peroni and Meantime a sale that is meant to address regulatory concerns about its mega merger with SABMiller.

The offer by Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings, if accepted following an employee consultation, would move AB InBev closer to completing the deal. It hopes to wrap up the merger by the second half of 2016.

AB InBev agreed last year to buy SABMiller.


Report: Harmful gas levels in Lumber Liquidators flooring

NEW YORK (AP) A federal investigation has found that Lumber Liquidators sold Chinese-made flooring that emits hazardous levels of formaldehyde.

The laminate flooring was sold by the national retailer until last May, when the company announced it was halting sales. A long-awaited federal safety review found the flooring gave off enough formaldehyde gas to irritate the eyes, nose and throat of many people. There also was enough gas from the product to trigger breathing problems in people with certain health conditions. The formaldehyde also increased cancer risks by a small amount.

U.S. officials released the analysis Wednesday.


Nestle terminates IAAF sponsorship over doping scandal

LONDON (AP) Food and beverage giant Nestle told the IAAF on Wednesday that it terminated its sponsorship of athletics' governing body over fears the doping scandal could damage the company's image.

The announcement came while Adidas remains in talks with the International Association of Athletics Federations about its handling of the corruption scandal amid reports the sportswear giant was considering ending its sponsorship.

The IAAF is fighting attempts by sponsors to cut their contracts early. Rather than accepting the sponsor's decision, the IAAF said it remained "in discussion with Nestle concerning the final year of its five-year partnership."


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 99.64 points, or 0.6 percent, to 15,914.74. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.35 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,851.86. The Nasdaq composite index added 14.83 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,283.59.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 49 cents, or 1.8 percent, to close at $27.45 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 52 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $30.84 a barrel in London. In other energy trading in New York, wholesale gasoline rose 4 cents, or 4.9 percent, to 94 cents a gallon and home heating oil was flat at 97 cents a gallon. Natural gas fell 5 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $2.05 per 1,000 cubic feet.