BC-APFN-Business News Digest

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Business News at 2 p.m.

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All times EST.

TOP STORIES:

HIGHER COSTS FOR DRUGS

Roughly 5 million people in the U.S. rely on a growing class of medicines known as specialty drugs for complex conditions such as Hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis. The therapies conquer or control diseases that were once almost untreatable, but they can cost more than $80,000 for a single course of treatment and bury patients in debt. Patient advocates expect the problem to worsen. By Tom Murphy. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST-WHAT TO EXPECT

NEW YORK — From the outlandish future of tech to trends happening now, the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival offers a glimpse of what's on the minds of the technorati. Top talks this year include Google's Astro Teller on Google's most sci-fi like projects and the Winklevoss twins on the future of Bitcoin. By Mae Anderson. SENT: 850 words, photos.

RUSSIA-CAR MARKET WOES

MOSCOW — As Russia slides into recession, its car market is collapsing. Manufacturers like Ford, Chevrolet and Citroen have seen sales plunge by over 50 percent. The one type of car still in demand is German luxury sedans — richer Russians are splurging on them as status symbols, even though that means cutting back in other aspects of daily life. By James Ellingworth. SENT: 770 words, photos.

EURO-WHY IT'S FALLING

LONDON — The euro's fall against major currencies is unrelenting. On Wednesday it hit another 12-year low against the dollar. Here are the key reasons behind its slide. By Pan Pylas. SENT: 720 words, photo.

HOMES-DETROIT-$500 HOMES

DETROIT — Sixty-two thousand properties have faced foreclosure in Detroit this year over unpaid taxes. About half will likely be auctioned for $500 apiece this fall. Here are five things to consider before buying property in Detroit. By Beth Harpaz. SENT: 870 words, photos.

With:

HOMES-REPIONEERING DETROIT — In 1950, Detroit had a population of 1.85 million. Today, 690,000 remain, many who believe the city will rebound. Here are some of their stories, with a focus on housing. By Beth Harpaz. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

FED-BANK STRESS TESTS

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve issues the second round of results of its annual "stress tests" of the largest U.S. banks and subsidiaries of foreign banks. This time, the Fed will announce which banks are deemed strong enough to be allowed to raise dividends or pursue stock buybacks. By Marcy Gordon and Ken Sweet. UPCOMING: 130 words after release of results at 4:30 p.m. 350 words by 5:30 p.m.

FINANCIAL MARKETS

NEW YORK — U.S. stock indexes are edging higher in afternoon trading, a day after a sell-off prompted by worries about higher U.S. interest rates and a stronger dollar. By Bernard Condon. SENT: 600 words, photos. UPCOMING: 700 words by 5 p.m.

INDUSTRY:

PETSMART-SALE

NEW YORK — PetSmart is going private, as a group of investors led by the buyout firm BC Partners completed their $8.7 billion acquisition of the pet store retailer. PetSmart says President and CEO David Lenhart is stepping down and Michael Massey is being named president and CEO. SENT: 140 words. UPCOMING: Will be led.

LL BEAN

FREEPORT, Maine — L.L. Bean, known for selling its trademark boots via catalog for more than a century, plans to make a bigger push into brick-and-mortar retail by more than tripling the number of locations over the next five years. By David Sharp. SENT: 360 words.

TAX CREDITS BACKLASH

LANSING, Mich. — Auto companies and others are cashing in hundreds of millions of dollars in Recession-era tax credits a year, cutting deeply into state revenues at a time when budgets should be flush with a rising economy. Especially distressing to state officials is the suddenness and uncertainty of the financial impact. By David Eggert. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos by noon.

DIETARY GUIDELINES-MEAT

WASHINGTON — Meat companies have tried to rehabilitate an image tarnished in recent years by health and environmental concerns. Now the industry is swiftly and aggressively working to discredit a proposal for new dietary guidelines that recommends people eat less red and processed meat. By Mary Clare Jalonick. SENT: 870 words, photo.

— WALL STREET BONUSES — New York's state comptroller says the average bonus paid to securities industry employees in New York City grew 2 percent last year to nearly $173,000. SENT: 140 words. UPCOMING: Will be updated.

— SKOREA-KOREAN AIR-NUT RAGE — A flight attendant who says she was living her dream by working for Korean Air is now suing the airline and its infamous nut rage executive, claiming the bizarre onboard tantrum ruined her career. SENT: 430 words, photos. First moved late Tuesday night.

— ANDORRA-BANK INTERVENTION — Spain's central bank has taken over a bank that caters to the rich following accusations by the United States that its Andorran owner was involved in laundering money for criminal groups from China, Russia and Venezuela. SENT: 400 words, photos.

— BEHIND THE WHEEL-TOYOTA SIENNA — Toyota's Sienna, the best-selling family van in the country this year, has refreshed styling, stiffened vehicle structure, more safety equipment and new features for 2015. SENT: 1,000 words, photo, box.

— CHINA-NUCLEAR POWER — China is reviving growth of its nuclear power industry with approval of its first new project in two years. SENT: 410 words.

— POWDERED ALCOHOL — The maker of a powdered alcohol says his product has gained approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. SENT: 130 words.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

APPLE-RESEARCHKIT

SAN FRANCISCO — A look at Apple's ResearchKit, new tools it hopes will turn iPhone users into rich sources of data for medical studies. By Anick Jesdanun. SENT: 710 words, photo.

With:

— APPLE-SERVICES DOWN — Apple's widely used iTunes and app stores suffer a rare breakdown, frustrating millions of music lovers and mobile device owners around the world. SENT: 340 words.

SILICON VALLEY-SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION

SAN FRANCISCO — A woman alleging gender bias at a prestigious Silicon Valley venture capital firm testified that the co-worker she had an affair with shut her out of emails and meetings after she broke off the relationship. By Sudhin Thanawala. SENT: 650 words, photos. UPCOMING: Will be updated from testimony, timing uncertain.

— DIGITAL LIFE-REVIEW-GOOGLE PIXEL LAPTOP — A look at Google's new high-end Chromebook Pixel laptop which goes on sale Wednesday. By Anick Jesdanun. UPCOMING: 700 words chunky text, photos when embargo lifts at 2 p.m.

— AMAZON-EXCLUSIVES — Amazon is opening a store that will offer exclusive electronics, toys and other products created by inventors and small businesses, including products featured on the ABC reality show "Shark Tank." SENT: 300 words.

— FTC SUES DIRECTV — The government is taking the nation's biggest satellite TV provider to court, accusing DirecTV of misleading millions of consumers about the cost of its programming. By Jennifer C. Kerr. SENT: 280 words.

— VERIZON CUSTOMERS LOSE WEATHER CHANNEL — Verizon is dropping The Weather Channel from its FiOS TV service, saying more and more customers are getting their weather information on phone apps and online. SENT: 230 words.

— NETHERLANDS-DATA RETENTION — A judge scraps the Netherlands' data retention law, saying that while it helps solve crimes it also breaches the privacy of telephone and Internet users. SENT: 260 words.

SELFIE STICKS

PARIS — A French palace and a British museum have joined the growing list of global tourist attractions to ban "selfie sticks" — devices visitors use to improve snapshots, but which critics say are obnoxious and potentially dangerous. By Greg Keller. SENT: 510 words, photo.

— SWEDEN-ERICSSON-LAYOFFS — Wireless equipment maker Ericsson says it will cut 2,200 jobs in Sweden as part of a 9 billion kronor ($1.1 billion) savings package. SENT: 100 words.

INTERNATIONAL:

EUROPE CENTRAL BANK

FRANKFURT, Germany — European Central Bank head Mario Draghi says the economic recovery in the 19-country eurozone is gaining momentum and that recent stimulus measures will succeed in preventing a damaging period of falling prices that can hurt growth and jobs. By David McHugh. SENT: 350 words.

GERMANY-GLOBAL ECONOMY

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the heads of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, OECD and ILO. UPCOMING: News conference at about 2 p.m.

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece — Greece's new government is "radically opposed" to the privatization of certain businesses, particularly in the energy and infrastructure sectors, a senior cabinet minister said Wednesday as reforms talks with creditors are due to begin. By Elena Becatoros. SENT: 530 words, photos. Incorporates GREECE-ENERGY.

— UKRAINE — The International Monetary Fund agreed Wednesday to extend $17.5 billion in loans to Ukraine as part of a program designed to pull the country back from the verge of economic collapse. By Peter Leonard. SENT: 440 words, photos.

— MALAYSIA-CURRENCY — Malaysia's central bank says the ringgit, which has plunged 14.4 percent against the U.S. dollar since September, was sharply undervalued but ruled out reintroducing capital controls. SENT: 370 words.

— MEXICO-PESO — Mexico's central bank will auction off $52 million per day in a bid to stabilize the rapidly devaluing peso. SENT: 120 words.

— INDIA-COAL SCANDAL — A special Indian court summons former prime minister Manmohan Singh, accusing him of criminal conspiracy and breach of trust for his alleged role in a multibillion dollar scandal over the sale of coal fields. SENT: 390 words, photos.

PERSONAL FINANCE:

ON THE MONEY-MORTGAGE SHOPPING

Tips on how to get the best deal on a mortgage. By Alex Veiga UPCOMING: 800 words by 3 p.m.

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CENTERPIECE

Euro lows

The euro is hitting multi-years lows against the dollar. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

Vera Bradley hits all-time low

Vera Bradley shares hit a new low Wednesday after the handbag and accessory maker reported disappointing fourth-quarter results and gave a weak outlook. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.