Business News at 3:40 p.m.
The supervisor is Richard Jacobsen (800-845-8450, ext. 1680). For photos, ext. 1900. For graphics and interactives, ext. 7636. Expanded AP content can be obtained from http://www.apexchange.com. For access to AP Exchange and other technical issues, contact customersupport(at)ap.org or call 877-836-9477.
If you have questions about transmission of financial market listings, please call 800-3AP-STOX.
A selection of top photos can be found at http://bit.ly/APTopPhotos
Editors: Please note that, AMERICAN-US AIRWAYS-PARKER PROFILE which was listed on a previous digest, will move in a later cycle.
New this digest:
--Adds: IRS-WHERE'S MY REFUND?; MISS AMERICA; MERGER MANIA-GLANCE
--Updates: OIL PRICES
NEW YORK — Billionaire Warren Buffett is dipping into the ketchup business as part of $23.3 billion deal to buy Heinz, uniting a legend of American investing with a mainstay of grocery store shelves. The acquisition is straight out of Buffett's usual playbook — a predictably profitable company with an easy-to-understand business. But the deal could also give Heinz a leg up on its plans to become a power in fast-growing overseas markets. By Candice Choi.
— HEINZ- GLANCE — The basic of Heinz's business.
— HEINZ-DEALS-GLANCE — The biggest food industry deal.
— MERGER MANIA-GLANCE — Companies are buying each other again. Global merger activity had been tepid since 2007.
BUFFETT'S BIG DEALS
OMAHA, Neb. — At 82, Warren Buffett remains happiest hunting for deals at the conglomerate he built. Even after battling prostate cancer last year, Buffett has no plans to retire from Berkshire Hathaway. Instead he plans to use the roughly $1 billion cash that Berkshire's companies generate each month to keep hunting for massive deals like the $23 billion acquisition of Heinz that Buffett helped finance. By Josh Funk.
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performs at Heinz Hall. The city's history museum is named for a Heinz heir. One of the city's richest philanthropies was fueled by the Heinz fortune. Love-struck couples wait for months, if not years, to be married at Heinz Memorial Chapel. And the city's beloved Steelers play their home games at Heinz Field. Those are just a few reasons why of the ketchup-making giant H.J. Heinz Co. resonates so profoundly with Pittsburghers. By Joseph Mandak.
KERRY-HEINZ DEAL — Secretary of State John Kerry's financial portfolio could grow handily as a result of today's $23 billion mega-deal that saw Nebraska billionaire Warren Buffett and a Brazilian-owned investment firm buy out ketchup producer H.J. Heinz Co. By Stephen Braun.
DALLAS — US Airways CEO Doug Parker finally lands the big merger he's sought for years. Now the soon-to-be CEO of the new American Airlines has to make it work. Planes need painting. Frequent flier programs have to be combined. And the new airline will still be weak in Asia and needs to win back business travelers who have been drifting away to other airlines. By Joshua Freed and David Koenig.
AP photos, video, interactive, graphic.
CHICAGO — A merged American Airlines and US Airways will carry more passengers around the world than any other, but even the biggest airline flying doesn't need eight hub airports on the ground. That means amid the hoopla of the day's merger announcement, there are a few mayors, a handful of chambers of commerce leaders and lots of frequent flyers worried about what's to come. Expect their sales pitches to start soon about why their city should remain a hub. By Jason Keyser.
Sidebars & Glances:
— AMERICAN-US AIRWAYS-DEAL BREAKDOWN — Highlights of the deal to form a new No. 1 airline.
— AMERICAN-US AIRWAYS-TRAVELER IMPACT — It will be several months — if not years — before passengers see any significant impact from the combination of US Airways and American Airlines.
— AMERICAN-US AIRWAYS-ROUTES — In the jigsaw puzzle of airline routes, American Airlines and US Airways are two pieces that fit together almost perfectly.
— AMERICAN-US AIRWAYS-ROUTES-GLANCE
— US AIRWAYS CEO-BIO BOX — A quick look at Doug Parker, CEO of US Airways
— AMERICAN AIRLINES CEO-BIO BOX — A quick look at Tom Horton, CEO of AMR
— US AIRWAYS-GLANCE — An overview of the airline, at a glance
— AMERICAN AIRLINES-GLANCE — An overview of the airline, at a glance
— AMERICAN AIRLINES-TIMELINE — A history of the airline
— US AIRWAYS-TIMELINE — The airline's history
WASHINGTON — The outlook for the U.S. job market is brightening after a government report showed a sharp drop in the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits. Weekly applications fell 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000. And the four-week average stayed near a five-year low. Economists were encouraged by the decline but want to see the progress sustained and more jobs created. They note that since the recession ended the job market has shown brief bursts of improvement that have faltered after a few months. By Christopher S. Rugaber.
BERLIN — The recession across the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro deepened in the last three months of 2012. The eurozone economy shrank by 0.6 percent, the biggest fall since the first quarter of 2009, when the global economy was in its deepest recession since World War II. By Pan Pylas and David Rising.
— EUROPE-ECONOMY-GLANCE — How Europe's economies have managed.
VALENTINE'S DAY GUNS
LAS VEGAS — One shooting range is selling a "take a shot at love" package that includes targets, 50 sub-machine gun rounds and a three-course meal. Another is offering discounted "shotgun weddings," which feature AK-47s for the wedding party and an ordained minister to lead the lovebirds through their vows to the rat-tat-tat of gunfire. Never known for its understatement or good taste, Las Vegas is bucking the trend of avoiding flippant gun promotions after the mass shooting in Newton, Conn., unleashing everything from a flurry of cupid-themed promotions this Valentine's Day to airport billboards inviting tourists to "come try an uzi." By Hannah Dreier.
AP Photos, video.
MARKETS AND ECONOMY
IRS-WHERE'S MY REFUND?
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has a message for taxpayers eager to learn the status of their tax refund: Please don't check the IRS website every five minutes — once a day is enough. The IRS says its "Where's my refund?" website and smartphone app are being overwhelmed by eager taxpayers. By Stephen Ohlemacher.
— MORTGAGE RATES — The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage was unchanged for a second week at 3.53 percent, remaining near historic lows. The average rate on the 15-year mortgage also stayed the same. Low mortgage rates are helping to strengthen the housing recovery.
— FORECLOSURE RATES — The number of U.S. homes entering the foreclosure process fell in January to a level not seen since the peak of the housing boom.
NEW YORK — Renewed worries about Europe overshadowed an encouraging U.S. jobs report, and stocks flipped between slight gains and losses. By Matthew Craft.
— OIL PRICES — The price of oil rose to finish above $97 per barrel, reversing Wednesday's small drop.
— WORLD-GOLD DEMAND — Global gold sales slipped in 2012 for the first time in three years as the biggest central bank purchases in half a century weren't able to offset a decline in demand from India.
— SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSIONER — AP Interview: The outgoing Social Security commissioner says benefit cuts, tax hikes are inevitable.
DETROIT — General Motors made money in North America and Asia and lost a bundle in Europe as it nearly doubled last year's fourth-quarter profit. By Tom Krisher.
NEW YORK — PepsiCo's net income rose 17 percent in the fourth quarter as it raised prices and sold more of its snacks and drinks around the world. The company's earnings and revenue beat analysts' estimates. It also provided an annual earnings outlook in line with Wall Street expectations and raised its quarterly dividend by 5.6 percent. By Candice Choi.
— SWITZERLAND-EARNS-NESTLE — Nestle, the world's biggest food and drinks maker, says profit grew to $11.55 billion in 2012, but predicts a challenging year ahead. AP photos
— BRITAIN-EARNS-RIO-TINTO — Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto posts a $3 billion loss for 2012 after taking a $14 billion writedown from its aluminum business and the acquisition of a coal company in Mozambique.
DISABLED CRUISE SHIP
MOBILE, Ala. — The dismal and decrepit scene aboard a disabled Carnival cruise ship comes into sharper focus as the vessel inches toward the Alabama shore and more passengers are able to communicate what they're going through. After a week at sea, the vacation voyage in the Gulf of Mexico has turned into a nightmare odyssey of scarce food, overflowing toilets, dark corridors and uncertainty about when they will finally reach a safe harbor. By Jay Reeves and Ramit Plushnick-Masti.
MERCK CHOLESTEROL DRUG SUIT
Merck & Co. has agreed to pay $688 million to settle two long-running lawsuits brought by investors who alleged the drugmaker delayed releasing bad news on its blockbuster cholesterol drugs to prevent a drop in sales. It's one of the biggest recoveries ever in a securities fraud case. By Linda A. Johnson.
NEW YORK — Coach's longtime CEO Lew Frankfort, who transformed what had been a small leather goods business into a global luxury brand, will step down next year. He will be replaced by its current head of international operations. By Anne D'Innocenzio.
ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV-GRUPO MODELO
NEW YORK — Anheuser-Bush InBev changes the terms of its proposed $20.1 billion acquisition of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo in an attempt to push through a deal that federal regulators say will kill competition.
— MISS AMERICA — Miss America, Atlantic City's prodigal pageant, is coming home, and the spectacle that became synonymous with the New Jersey seaside resort is being assured all is forgiven after a six-year fling in Las Vegas.
— CHRYSLER-RECALL — Chrysler is recalling 278,000 pickup trucks and SUVs to fix a problem that can cause the rear axles to lock up unexpectedly.
— EUROPE HORSEMEAT — The price, smell and color should have been clear tipoffs something was wrong with shipments of horsemeat that were fraudulently labeled as beef, French authorities said Thursday. The economy minister pinned the bulk of the blame on a French wholesaler at the heart of the growing scandal in Europe.
— CARDINAL HEALTH-ACQUISITION — Cardinal Health paying $2 billion for medical supplier AssuraMed to extend its reach to patients receiving care at home.
— BARNES & NOBLE-NOOK — Barnes & Noble Inc. stock is lower after the retailer said it expects losses from its Nook e-reader business to be larger in 2013.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA
— EARNS-CBS — CBS Corp. reports quarterly financial results after the market close
— GAMES-TAMAGOTCHI — Tamagotchi returns: Electronic pet reborn as mobile app, lifestyle brand. AP photos
— CHINA-PEOPLE-KOBE BRYANT — NBA superstar Kobe Bryant creates a stir by setting up a microblog account in China.
TOKYO — Japan's economy shrank in the last three months of 2012, its third straight quarter of contraction, giving the government ammunition to defend its "weak yen" strategy as necessary to getting growth back on track. By Elaine Kurtenbach.
MUMBAI, India — India's statistics agency is forecasting economic growth of only 5 percent for the fiscal year ending March, the weakest in a decade. It's a big comedown from just a couple of years ago when officials boasted India could grow at 10 percent or more a year and overtake China. The finance ministry has accused the statistics agency of being too pessimistic. That spat aside, there's no question that Asia's third-largest economy is now not growing fast enough to produce sufficient jobs for its burgeoning youth population. By Kay Johnson.
— INDIA-INFLATION — India's stubbornly high inflation eases to a three-year low of 6.6 percent in January, a glimmer of good news.
— GERMANY-ECONOMY — The German economy shrank 0.6 percent in the final quarter in 2012 as the European financial crisis took its toll on the continent's largest economy.
— FRANCE-ECONOMY— French economic growth last year ground to a halt.
— GREECE-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Greek unemployment rate hits record 27 percent as recession rolls on, poverty spreads.
— GERMANY-AIRPORT STRIKES — Hundreds of flights are canceled after security personnel walk off the job at two German airports in a dispute over wages.
— EU-GERMANY JOHNSON-&-JOHNSON HIP RECALL — Johnson & Johnson is recalling thousands of hip implants three years after a similar recall, according to reports.
— POLAND-DREAMLINER — Poland's airline LOT is keeping both its Boeing 787 Dreamliners grounded through October while the U.S. aircraft maker seeks to eliminate a potential safety threat that occurred in some planes. The decision is a blow to Poland's national carrier, which is cutting costs in an effort to survive.
MORE INTERNATIONAL EARNINGS
— FRANCE-EARNS-BNP PARIBAS — BNP Paribas says earnings slumped 33 percent in the fourth quarter due to the cost of provisioning a risky loan in its investment banking division.
— FRANCE-EARNS-EDF — French electricity giant EDF says profit rose 5 percent last year thanks to solid growth in Italy and its home market and growing demand for nuclear power in Britain.
— FRANCE-EARNS-RENAULT — French car maker Renault managed to shore up its cash position in 2012 even though profits crumbled during the year.
— INDIA-EARNS-TATA MOTORS — India's Tata Motors says fourth-quarter profit dropped 50 percent on weak demand and higher marketing and launch costs for new Range Rover vehicles.
— FRANCE-EARNS-PERNOD RICARD — French wine and spirits group Pernod Ricard says profit in the first half of its fiscal year rose 5 percent thanks to strengthening sales in Asia.
OF MUTUAL INTEREST-TAX-SAVVY INVESTING
BOSTON — The "fiscal cliff" deal in Washington kept the economic recovery on track while preserving tax rates that investors with moderate to low incomes pay on capital gains and dividends. Not so for wealthier investors, who will pay sharply higher rates in many instances. We'll offer advice on managing your investment portfolio in this new tax landscape, with tips from Duncan Richardson of Eaton Vance, a specialist in tax-efficient mutual fund investing. By Personal Finance Writer Mark Jewell.
FIDELITY-RETIREMENT SAVINGS TRENDS
BOSTON — Employee 401(k) accounts are growing fast, thanks to the surging stock market and increased contributions from workers and their employers. Fidelity says the average account balance grew nearly 12 percent last year. By Personal Finance Writer Mark Jewell.
SMART SPENDING-OUTSOURCING SPRING CLEANING
Spring cleaning can make a home feel like new, but let's face it, it's a pain. But it's possible to outsource some of that work without being a millionaire. If you're willing to spend a few bucks to save on the elbow grease, here are some options to consider. By Mae Anderson.
A sampling of Money & Markets modules is below. The full digest for AP's Money & Markets service can be found at markets.ap.org. For questions about Money & Markets content, please contact Trevor Delaney (800-845-8450, ext. 1807). For technical support: Todd Balog (816-654-1096). After 6 p.m., contact the AP Business News desk (800-845-8450, ext. 1680) for content questions; 1-800-3AP-STOX for technical support and 212-621-1905 for graphics help.
The NBC deal: Comcast
Why put it off? Comcast agreed to buy General Electric's 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion, several years ahead of schedule. A look at what investors should know about Comcast.
Buffett dips into ketchup
H.J. Heinz says it's the largest deal ever in the food industry. The food company has agreed to be acquired by an investment consortium including billionaire investor Warren Buffett in a deal valued at $28 billion.