BC-APFN-Business News Digest

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Here are AP Business News' latest coverage plans, top stories and promotable content. All times EDT.

TOP STORIES:

FEDERAL RESERVE — The Federal Reserve keeps a key interest rate unchanged in light of global pressures that risk slowing the U.S. economy. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 800 words, photos.

With: FINANCIAL MARKETS — U.S. stocks rise after the Federal Reserve leaves interest rates unchanged and forecasts it will raise rates more gradually than it had envisioned late last year. By Marley Jay. SENT: 900 words, photo.

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK-MARCH MADNESS — March Madness is taking over at small companies that are letting employees watch the NCAA basketball tournament while they work. By Joyce Rosenberg. SENT: 850 words, photos.

CHINA-ECONOMY — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledges to press ahead with an overhaul of the state-dominated economy and financial markets despite slowing growth, saying the country's rising debt levels are under control. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

DEUTSCHE BOERSE-LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE — The London Stock Exchange and Germany's Deutsche Boerse say they are merging in an all-stock deal that will leave the German side with a majority in a company worth about $30 billion. By David McHugh. SENT: 440 words, photos.

QATAR-OIL MEETING — OPEC member states and other major oil producers are planning to meet next month to discuss a freeze in oil output levels. By Adam Schreck. SENT: 350 words, photo.

HOME CONSTRUCTION — Construction of new homes rose in February to the highest level in five months, but applications for new construction were weak for a third month. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 350 words, photo.

CONSUMER PRICES — U.S. consumer prices fell in February, dragged by another steep drop in energy prices. However, core inflation managed to tick higher, led by the biggest jump in clothing costs in seven years. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 400 words, photo.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION — U.S. factories produced more machinery, appliances and other goods last month, the second straight increase in output and a sign manufacturing may be stabilizing after a difficult year. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: 380 words, photo.

CONGRESS-BUDGET — A plan to eliminate the federal budget deficit without tax increases demanded by Democrats is poised to advance through a key House panel, but at the cost of sharp cuts to federal health care programs, government aid to the poor, and hundreds of domestic programs supported by lawmakers in both parties. By Andrew Taylor. SENT: 600 words, photo.

EARNINGS:

EARNS-FEDEX — FedEx Corp. reports that its third-quarter profit fell 19 percent on legal costs and acquisition spending, but revenue rose and the results beat Wall Street expectations. UPCOMING: 400 words by 5:30 p.m.

INDUSTRY:

AUTO SAFETY AGREEMENT — Two people briefed on the matter say car automakers have reached a deal with the U.S. government to put automatic emergency braking in most vehicles by 2022. By Tom Krisher. SENT: 290 words.

FOOD AND FARM-MAPLE'S MOMENT — Once a side venture that helped farmers pay their taxes, Vermont maple syrup is becoming big business, with corporations buying up thousands of acres of trees as they bank in part on a rise in demand for alternative natural sweeteners. By Lisa Rathke. SENT: 650 words, photos.

ANBANG-FIDELITY & GUARANTY — China's Anbang Insurance Group receives approval from a U.S. committee for its nearly $1.6 billion purchase of life insurance company Fidelity & Guaranty Life. SENT: 120 words, photos.

EUROPE-CAR SALES — Volkswagen, penalized down by its emissions scandal, continues to miss out on the booming European car market. SENT: 150 words.

PEABODY ENERGY-BANKRUPTCY — The largest American coal miner, Peabody Energy, is delaying an interest payment due this week and warned that it may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. SENT: 380 words, photo.

FAA BILL-AIRLINE FEES — A Senate panel has approved an aviation policy bill after a partisan fight over whether airlines are unfairly gouging consumers with fees for basic services like checked bags, seat assignments and ticket changes. SENT: 650 words, photo.

OFF-SHORE WIND ENERGY — Federal officials say more than 81,000 acres off the coast of Long island will be dedicated for the development of commercial wind energy. SENT: 350 words.

CONGRESS-GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS — Senate Republican efforts to stop mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods have stalled. SENT: 460 words.

CHIPOTLE-FREE BURRITOS — Chipotle is giving away free burritos to combat the eeriness of empty stores and to convince people that its food is safe. By Candice Choi. SENT: 450 words.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

CHIPOTLE-TWITTER FIRING — An administrative judge found Chipotle's social media policy violated federal labor laws while ruling in favor of a Philadelphia-area employee who was fired after criticizing the company on Twitter last year. SENT: 400 words.

POKERSTARS-NJ — The world's largest Internet poker company is starting a trial period of operating in New Jersey. SENT: 320 words.

INTERNATIONAL

CUBA-TRAVEL-Q&A — Some questions and answers about the new rules for Americans traveling to Cuba. By Josh Lederman. SENT: 650 words, photos.

BRITAIN-ECONOMY — Britain's Treasury chief is set to unveil a budget replete with billions of pounds (dollars) in cuts to achieve a target of balancing the books in the face of weaker global economic growth. By Danica Kirka. SENT: 500 words, photos.

ARGENTINA-DEBT — The lower house of Argentina's Congress has approved the government's deal with holdout-creditors — a measure meant to give the country access to global credit markets. SENT: 140 words.

SOUTH AFRICA-ECONOMIC WOES — South Africa's currency has weakened amid a public dispute between the country's finance minister and police investigators. SENT: 140 words.

MONEY & MARKETS SUMMARY:

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

FDA backs Abbott product

Abbott Laboratories cleared a major hurdle this week after FDA advisers voted that its dissolvable stent is effective for treating patients with narrowing arteries.

CENTERPIECE

Retail pays off

Real estate companies that build and manage properties leased by everyone from supermarkets chains and department stores to small mom-and-pop restaurants are among the best-performing stocks so far this year.

HOW TO REACH US:

Business News Supervisor Richard Jacobsen (800-845-8450, ext. 1680). For photos (ext. 1900.) For graphics/interactives (ext. 7636.) Expanded AP content: http://www.apexchange.com. For access to AP Exchange and technical issues: customersupport@ap.org, or 877-836-9477. Questions about transmission of financial market listings, call 800-3AP-STOX.

The full digest for AP's Money & Markets service can be found at markets.ap.org. For questions about M&M content, contact Stan Choe (800-845-8450, ext.