BUSINESS

BC-Business News Digest

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Business News at 5 p.m.

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All times EDT.

—Adds: CONGRESS-BUDGET, FEDERAL RESERVE-FISCHER, ADULT INTERNET ADDRESSES

—Updates: FINANCIAL MARKETS, GERMANY-GREECE

TOP STORIES:

KEEPING THE OIL BOOM ALIVE

NEW YORK — Faced with lower prices, drillers are leaning on new techniques and technology and cutting costs everywhere they can in an effort to keep U.S. oil competitive with much lower-cost oil flowing out of the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere. By Jonathan Fahey. SENT: 830 words, photos.

GENDER EQUALITY-PROFITS

LONDON — When Rohini Anand took over diversity programs at multinational catering company Sodexo in 2002, she had one goal: To prove that it pays for a company to have equal numbers of male and female managers. Sodexo, which has 419,000 employees in 80 countries, says she's done just that. By Danica Kirka. SENT: 1,150 words, photos.

With:

— GENDER EQUALITY-PROFITS-GLANCE — Prominent women in business leadership roles worldwide. SENT: 250 words.

LOUISVILLE SLUGGER-SALE

Over a century of family ownership of Louisville Slugger bats is going ... going ... nearly gone. The company that makes the iconic bats gripped by generations of ballplayers — from Babe Ruth to David Wright — announces a deal to sell its Louisville Slugger brand to rival Wilson Sporting Goods Co. for $70 million. By Bruce Schreiner. SENT: 620 words, photos. UPCOMING: 750 words by 5:30 p.m.

TAX REFUND ADVANCES

WASHINGTON — Cash-strapped Americans anxious for tax refunds are increasingly turning to payment advances, prepaid cards or other costly services when getting tax preparation help, according to new federal data raising concerns among regulators about whether consumers are fully informed about the fees. By Hope Yen. SENT: 850 words, photos.

With:

— TAX REFUND ADVANCES-TIPS

— TAX REFUND ADVANCES-GLANCE

CUBA-THE RUSH

HAVANA — Bookings to Cuba have jumped nearly 250 percent for one New York tour operator. In the weeks since Washington said it would renew ties with Havana, such businesses are seeing a rush of travelers eager to see Cuba now — before, as many predict, McDonald's claims a spot in Old Havana and Starbucks moves in on Cubita, the island's premium coffee brand. By Andrea Rodriguez and Peter Orsi. SENT: 970 words, photos.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

FEDERAL RESERVE-FISCHER

NEW YORK — Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer says he expects the Fed to start raising interest rates sometime this year. Once that happens, though, rates won't likely move in any predictable pattern, he says. By Marley Jay. SENT: 400 words.

HOME SALES

WASHINGTON — U.S. home sales pick up slightly in February but remain sluggish due to tight inventories, affordability problems and nasty winter weather. By Josh Boak. SENT: 730 words, photo.

FINANCIAL MARKETS

NEW YORK — A late turn pulls the stock market to a loss, as major indexes waver following a strong run last week. By Matthew Craft. SENT: 600 words, photo.

— CONGRESS-BUDGET — House Democrats unveil budget matching Obama's tax increases, deficit path. SENT: 500 words.

INDUSTRY:

GLUTEN-FREE WHEAT

WICHITA, Kan. — New research funded by farmers aims to breed a wheat variety for people who can't eat wheat, an endeavor that comes as wider consumer interest in gluten-free foods is booming to the tune of $973 million in sales last year. Supporters of the research say it isn't an effort to regain market share, but some celiac experts are skeptical and believe, at best, it could lead to a less toxic wheat variety. By Roxana Hegeman. SENT: 800 words, photos, graphic.

SEAWORLD-BLACKFISH

ORLANDO, Fla. — SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. is mounting a public defense of its animal handling in a new advertising campaign after a highly critical 2013 documentary left the park with declining revenue and attendance. By Mike Schneider. SENT: 440 words.

— CHINA-CHEMCHINA-PIRELLI — China's biggest state-owned chemical company announces plans to acquire Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli, adding to a string of high-profile Chinese corporate purchases in Europe. SENT: 340 words, photos.

— HUMANA-CONCENTRA SALE — Humana Inc. says it will sell its Concentra Inc. unit to MJ Acquisition Corp. for just under $1.06 billion in cash. SENT: 300 words.

— RUSSIA-UNION DISPUTERS — A Russian union official says 15 members have been briefly detained by police as tensions rise in disputes involving Volkswagen and Peugeot factories. SENT: 390 words.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

— ADULT INTERNET ADDRESSES — Taylor Swift, Harvard, Microsoft among those buying up .porn, .adult suffixes as a precaution. SENT: 130 words.

— TV-GAME OF THRONES — The U.S. premiere of the fifth season of "Game of Thrones" will be held at a palatial building in San Francisco and HBO plans to give fans access to the red carpet event by streaming it live on the show's Facebook page. SENT: 100 words, photos. Will be updated after screening, expected around midnight.

— ISRAEL-ALIBABA — An executive at an Israeli venture capital firm says his company has received an investment from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. SENT: 150 words.

— SUPREME COURT-ARBITRATION — The Supreme Court will consider whether satellite provider DirecTV can cut off a class action lawsuit and force customers suing over early termination fees into private arbitration hearings instead. SENT: 150 words.

INTERNATIONAL:

GERMANY-GREECE

BERLIN — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel seekto reboot an increasingly sour relationship, saying they are looking for ways to help Athens reach a deal with creditors that will keep it from falling out of the euro. By Geir Moulson. SENT: 600 words, photos.

With:

— GERMANY-GREECE-STICKING POINTS — Some of the issues causing friction as Alexis Tsipras makes his first visit to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel. SENT: 360 words, photo.

— EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK — European Central Bank head Mario Draghi says the bank is ready to restore support for Greece's banks if talks between the Greek government and its creditors get back on track. SENT: 230 words, photos.

— ARGENTINA-DEBT STANDOFF — Citibank says a U.S. court has authorized it to process two debt payments for Argentina without facing contempt charges over a long-running dispute with U.S. bondholders. SENT: 120 words.

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CENTERPIECE

Bonding with funds

But bond funds were surprisingly popular last month. February was the most prolific month for bond-fund investment in more than two years. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.

COMPANY CENTERPIECE

Biogen cuts Idec

Biogen Idec is shortening its name to Biogen. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.