Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


What it means if Fed no longer says it's 'patient' on rates

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the Federal Reserve, patience may no longer be a virtue.

Surrounding the Fed's policy meeting this week is the widespread expectation that it will no longer use the word "patient" to describe its stance on raising interest rates from record lows.

The big question is: What will that mean?

Many economists say the dropping of "patience" would signal that the Fed plans to start raising rates in June to reflect a steadily strengthening U.S. job market. Others foresee no rate hike before September. And a few predict no increase before year's end at the earliest.


Coke a good snack? Health experts who work with Coke say so

NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola is working with fitness and nutrition experts who suggest its soda as a treat at a time when the world's biggest beverage maker is being blamed for helping to fuel obesity rates.

In February, several of the experts wrote online posts for American Heart Month, with each including a mini-can of Coke or soda as a snack idea. The pieces — which appeared on nutrition blogs and other sites including those of major newspapers — offer a window into the many ways food companies work behind the scenes to cast their products in a positive light, often with the help of third parties who are seen as trusted authorities.


Factory output falls for third straight month in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — Output at U.S. factories fell for a third straight month in February, driven by a big drop in production at auto plants.

The Federal Reserve said Monday that manufacturing output fell 0.2 percent in February, following a decline of 0.3 percent in January. Overall industrial production edged up a slight 0.1 percent in February, as unusually cold weather in many parts of the country led to a surge at utilities.

The weakness at factories is attributed in part to a stronger dollar, which makes U.S. exports more expensive on overseas markets, and supply disruptions from the labor dispute at West Coast ports.


US homebuilder sentiment slips in March

U.S. homebuilders are feeling slightly less confident in their sales prospects, but their overall sales outlook remains favorable.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday slipped to 53 this month, down two points from 55 in February. It's the third monthly decline in a row for the index.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, however.

Labor shortages, a dearth of available land parcels cleared for new home construction and tougher mortgage-lending standards weighed on builders' confidence this month, said David Crowe, the builder group's chief economist.


Foreign holdings of US Treasury debt hit $6.22 trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) — Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities rose to a record level in January despite a cutback by investors in China, the largest foreign owner of Treasury debt.

The Treasury Department said Monday that foreign holdings increased 1 percent to $6.22 trillion.

China trimmed its holdings for a fifth month, reducing them 0.4 percent to $1.24 trillion after a 0.5 percent cut in December.

Japan, the No. 2 foreign buyer, boosted its holdings by 0.6 percent in January to $1.24 trillion. Before rounding, the Chinese total is $500 million higher than the Japanese.


Valeant ups Salix bid to $11.11B and Endo ends quest

Valeant raised its offer for Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd. by more than $1 billion Monday, forcing rival bidder Endo International out of the running.

Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. said it would pay $11.11 billion in cash, or $173 per share, a 2 percent premium over Friday's closing price. The companies put the deal's enterprise value at about $15.8 billion, including debt owed by Salix.

Landing Salix is somewhat of a redemption for Valeant, which was snubbed in its pursuit of Botox-maker Allergan last year. On Monday, Allergan said that its acquisition by Actavis, which like Endo is based in Ireland, has been approved by European regulators.


McDonald's workers detail burns, job hazards

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's workers in 19 cities have filed complaints over burns from popping grease, a lack of protective equipment and other workplace hazards, according to labor organizers.

The complaints are the latest move in an ongoing campaign to win pay of $15 an hour and unionization for fast-food workers by publicly pressuring McDonald's to come to the bargaining table. The push is being spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union and began more than two years ago. Already, it has included protests around the country and lawsuits alleging workers weren't given their rightful pay.


Dickel master distiller leaving to head Popcorn Sutton

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A central figure in the public dispute between the Jack Daniel's and George Dickel distilleries over the legal definition of Tennessee whiskey is leaving to head up a brand named after a legendary moonshiner.

Popcorn Sutton Distilling announced Monday it has hired John Lunn as its master distiller. He had held the same role at George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey since 2005.

Dickel is owned by British conglomerate Diageo PLC, which has led a heated legislative fight seeking to overturn the state's newly established legal definition for Tennessee whiskey. The 2013 law was enacted at the behest of Jack Daniel's, which is owned by global rival Brown-Forman Corp. of Louisville, Kentucky.


Gym chain Life Time Fitness to become private company

NEW YORK (AP) — Life Time Fitness Inc. said Monday that it will sell itself to two private equity firms for more than $2.8 billion, in a deal that will turn the gym chain into a private company.

The companies value the deal at more than $4 billion, when debt is included.

Leonard Green & Partners and TPG will pay $72.10 for each share of Life Time Fitness, a 7.3 percent premium from its close of $67.20 on Friday. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter. CEO Bahram Akradi will stay in his role at the company.


Blackstone buying Chicago's Willis Tower for undisclosed sum

NEW YORK (AP) — Blackstone is buying Chicago's Willis Tower, once called the Sears Tower, from 233 South Wacker LLC for an undisclosed amount.

The Willis Tower is 110 stories and the second-tallest office building in the U.S. It is the fifth-tallest office building in the world and was for many years the world's tallest.

The Wall Street Journal put the purchase price at $1.3 billion, citing unnamed Blackstone executives. That would make it the highest price paid for an office tower outside New York, according to real estate information provider CoStar Group Inc.


Attorney says legal action against GM will continue

DETROIT (AP) — Despite the settlement of one high-profile case against General Motors, other cases are moving forward and company executives could still be questioned about their role in the deadly ignition switch recall, a plaintiffs' attorney said Monday.

The parents of crash victim Brooke Melton, whose 2011 lawsuit in Georgia helped expose the ignition switch defect, reached a second settlement with GM last week. Attorney Lance Cooper wouldn't say Monday how much GM paid Melton's family, but said "you could assume" it was more than the $5 million the family won in its first settlement in 2013.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 228.11 points, or 1.3 percent, to 17,977.42. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 27.79 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,081.19. The Nasdaq composite jumped 57.75 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,929.51.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 96 cents to close at $43.88 a barrel in New York. Oil has dropped 12 percent over the past week, and now is lower than it has been since March of 2009. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.23 to close at $53.44 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 3.3 cents to close at $1.729 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.4 cents to close at $1.699 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1.1 cents to close at $2.716 per 1,000 cubic feet.