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Business News at 1:40 p.m.

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All times EST.



WASHINGTON — In recent months, the stage seemed set for American consumers to do what they've traditionally done best: Spend money — and drive the economy. The lowest gas prices in five years had given people more spending money, and hiring was surging. And yet — to the surprise of analysts— consumers have held their wallets closely. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: 760 words, photo.


MILAN — Shops in Europe are discounting aggressively to attract customers. The good news is it's working — spending is up. The bad news is consumers could come to expect and rely on bargains and start delaying big purchases. Expectations for lower prices can set off an economic chain reaction — deflation — that can sink an economy for years. By Colleen Barry. SENT: 930 words, photos.


ATHENS, Greece — Greece is preparing to present its creditors with an official proposal aimed to save bailout talks from collapse, as time is running out for a deal that would keep the country solvent and within the euro currency bloc. By Nicholas Paphitis. SENT: 800 words, photos.


NEW YORK — When an employee of a small business posts offensive comments on social media that are racist, homophobic, sexist or against a religious group, an owner may need to fire the worker. Tolerating such offensive posts can put a company at risk for lawsuits and the loss of customers. By Joyce M. Rosenberg. SENT: 670 words, photos.



NEW YORK — U.S. stocks are drifting lower as investors wait for clues about the Federal Reserve's plans for interest rates. By Steve Rothwell. SENT: 580 words, photos. UPCOMING: 700 words by 5 p.m.


— EUROPE-CAPITAL MARKETS — The European Union plans to boost capital markets by breaking down barriers to cross border investments as it looks to match the more dynamic venture capital market in the U.S. SENT: 240 words.


WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices fall by a record amount in January, led by the biggest drop in gasoline prices in six years. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 470 words, photo.


WASHINGTON — U.S. homebuilders slow the pace of construction in January, breaking ground on fewer single-family houses ahead of the spring buying season. By Josh Boak. SENT: 540 words, photo.


WASHINGTON — U.S. factory production edges up last month as manufacturers crank out more computers, clothing, steel and other metals, offsetting declines in autos and aerospace. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: 550 words, photo.


WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its Jan 27-28 meeting, when it sketched a brightening picture of the U.S. economy but reiterated that it will be "patient" in deciding when to raise interest rates from record lows. By Martin Crutsinger. UPCOMING: 130 words after 2 p.m. release. 350 words by 2:45 p.m.


WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department reports on foreign holdings of U.S. debt for December. In November, foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities rose to a record level following two months of declines, reflecting a big increase in purchases by Japan. By Martin Crutsinger. UPCOMING: 130 words after release of report at 4 p.m. 350 words by 4:45 p.m.



BERLIN — Geneva prosecutors search the premises of HSBC's Swiss subsidiary after launching a money-laundering investigation over a report that the bank helped hide millions of dollars for drug traffickers, arms dealers and celebrities. By Geir Moulson. SENT: 460 words, photos.


— BRITAIN-HSBC-NEWSPAPER — The chief political commentator for The Daily Telegraph resigns over the British newspaper's coverage of the HSBC scandal, alleging it was part of a pattern to downplay critical coverage of the bank in order to preserve lucrative advertising contracts. SENT: 380 words, photos.


RALEIGH, N.C. — Duke Energy says it expects to pay $100 million to settle an ongoing federal criminal investigation that began after a massive coal ash spill at a North Carolina plant. By Michael Biesecker and Mitch Weiss. SENT: 730 words.

— REFINERY EXPLOSION — An explosion occurs at an Exxon Mobil refinery in Southern California, triggering a very large smokestack flare to burn off flammable product, authorities said. SENT: 200 words. UPCOMING: Will be updated, DEVELOPING.

— ACTAVIS-NAME CHANGE — Drugmaker Actavis plans a name change once it finishes its acquisition of Botox-maker Allergan in a $66 billion deal that the company announced last fall. SENT: 420 words, photo.

— TRAIN DERAILMENT — MOUNT CARBON, W.Va. — A fire triggered by the derailment of a train carrying crude oil is smoldering for a third day in southern West Virginia. By John Raby and Jonathan Mattise. SENT: 920 words, photos, video.

— BRITAIN-ROLLS-ROYCE SUV — Luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce says it will jump into the highly competitive SUV market by offering a completely new all-terrain vehicle. SENT: 120 words.

— SALADWORKS-BANKRUPTCY — The restaurant chain Saladworks files for bankruptcy but says it won't affect day-to-day operations at its franchised locations. SENT: 140 words.

— UPS-CIGARETTE SHIPMENTS — New York authorities accuse United Parcel Service in a federal lawsuit of shipping 700,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes in the state between 2010 and 2014 despite an earlier agreement to stop. SENT: 160 words.

— NETHERLANDS-GAS DRILLING — An independent report into natural gas drilling that has triggered a rash of small earthquakes in the northern Netherlands says energy companies and the government put production ahead of people's safety in their decision making. SENT: 370 words.

— ATLANTIC CITY FUTURE — Making good on its vow to seek new, non-gambling attractions, Atlantic City has redevelopment plans that include a giant Ferris wheel, a beachfront zip line, restaurants, a rebuilt boardwalk and an elevated walkway. SENT: 475 words.

— BEHIND THE WHEEL-VW JETTA — For 2015, Volkswagen's best-selling vehicle, the Jetta compact sedan, builds on its fine road handling character and adds a nicer interior, freshened front and rear styling, new safety features and a more fuel thrifty diesel engine. SENT: 990 words, photo, box.


— DENMARK-EARNS-CARLSBERG — Danish brewer Carlsberg says its profit nose-dived in the fourth quarter due to slumping sales in the key Russian and eastern European markets. SENT: 150 words.



Smartwatches are getting smarter without a phone nearby. Samsung's Gear S and Sony's SmartWatch 3 stand out in being useful without a phone, such as when you're out for a run or a quick errand. By Anick Jesdanun. SENT: 590 words, photos.


TOKYO — Money-losing Sony will spin off its video-and-sound business into a separate company and shrink its headquarters as part of a three-year turnaround plan to speed up decision-making and become profitable again. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 500 words, photos.

— SMART REMOTE CONTROL — Juggling too many remotes? The touch-screen Ray Super Remote will control your TV, cable box, DVR, video game console and streaming player with just a tap of your finger. It will even learn what you like to watch. For a price. By Michael Liedtke. SENT: 380 words, photo.

— UBER-CARPOOLING — Ride-hailing app Uber plans to launch its carpooling service in Los Angeles, one of the most congested cities in the world. SENT: 130 words.

— LINKEDIN-ARABIC — Career networking website LinkedIn launches an Arabic version targeting the Middle East's majority youth population. SENT: 140 words.

— PARENTING-TRENDS IN TOYS — With 13,000 international buyers and the equivalent of seven football fields full of exhibitor booths, Toy Fair 2015 looks and sounds like the best-behaved children's party ever. Without the young ones in attendance, of course. SENT: 470 words, photos.

— IRAN-CYBERSPY REPORT — Iran is concerned by a Russian cybersecurity firm's report suggesting a new family of malicious programs and worms is infecting computers there and elsewhere in the world, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says. SENT: 360 words.



HAVANA — I found a more relaxed and hopeful atmosphere during a brief visit back to Havana this month, and Cuba is becoming a different country under President Raul Castro's modest reforms. Everywhere I traveled around Havana, hopes were high for more change after Cuba and the U.S. announcement on Dec. 17 they would move toward a more normal relationship. Cubans seem especially keen for more visits by Americans. By Anita Snow. SENT: 1,650 words, photos.

— JAPAN-ECONOMY — Japan's central bank pointed to signs of improvement in the world's third-biggest economy after ending a policy meeting with no change to its ultra-loose monetary stance. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 350 words, photo.

— BRITAIN-ECONOMY — Minutes to the Bank of England's last meeting show policymakers voted unanimously to keep interest rates at record lows and to refrain from pumping more money into the British economy. SENT: 250 words.

— EUROPE TAX — The European Union launches a drive to combat tax evasion following a series of probes into tax rules that allows multinationals to slash their bills in Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands. SENT: 320 words.

— MEXICO-OIL — Mexico's state-run oil company says it will postpone some deep-water exploration projects in response to a steep fall in crude prices. SENT: 310 words.

— MOLDOVA-POLITICS — Moldova's Parliament approves a minority pro-European government relying on the support of the Communists, as economic turmoil caused the currency to plummet. SENT: 130 words.



You paid a lot for your smartphone. But if you had already been using a budgeting app, would you have made the purchase? By Alex Veiga. UPCOMING: 800 words by 5 p.m.

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Miss P took home the "Best in Show" title in the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club dog show. What companies offer goods and services to help you care for the Miss P in your life. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.


Boston Scientific shares jump

Boston Scientific shares rise sharply after the medical device maker announces that it had reached a settlement with Johnson & Johnson over its 2006 acquisition of Guidant. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.