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BC-Business News Digest



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—Adds: BRITAIN-PHONE HACKING, VIDALIA ONION BATTLE, TAX DAY, NETFLIX-COMCAST, GOOGLE-TITAN AEROSPACE, BUDGET DEFICIT, LIONS GATE-ROCKETJUMP

—Updates: HEALTH CARE-COSTS, DATA BREACHES, WALL STREET, OIL PRICES, IPOs-TURNING POINT?

TOP STORIES:

RETAIL SALES

WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales in March rise by the largest amount in 18 months, led by strong gains in sales of autos, furniture and a number of other products. The 1.1 percent jump reported by the Commerce Department was the best showing since September 2012. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 530 words, photo.

TAX DAY

WASHINGTON — The calendar shows April 15, and you haven't even started on your tax returns? Don't fret. The IRS doesn't care, at least for taxpayers due refunds, 82 percent of them so far this year. But don't be more than three years late — you'll lose the refund. And if you're among that one-fifth who end up owing the government money, you're subject to penalties as well as interest on the money you owe. A chunky text summary. By Stephen Ohlemacher. SENT: 720 words, photos.

With:

— TAX ENFORCEMENT — As millions of Americans race to meet Tuesday's tax deadline, their chances of getting audited are lower than they have been in years. SENT: 960 words.

IPOs-TURNING POINT?

NEW YORK — A hot market for IPOs faces a tougher reality. After the best start to a year since 2000, companies preparing to sell their shares to the public are dealing with a sudden downturn in the stock market. They also face investors who fear that new technology companies aren't as valuable as they thought. Ninety companies have debuted their stocks in 2014, but more challenging times could lay ahead. By Steve Rothwell. SENT: 880 words, photos.

ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES-CONGRESS

RICHMOND, Va. — Concerns about electronic cigarettes, including flavors and marketing that could appeal to young people, underscore the need to regulate the fast-growing industry, according to a Congressional report. While the Food and Drug Administration plans to set marketing and product regulations for electronic cigarettes in the near future, for now, almost anything goes. The report highlights several issues including the lack of age restrictions and no uniform warning labels for the battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution and create vapor that's inhaled. By Michael Felberbaum. SENT: 450 words.

UBER-ASIA

MUMBAI, India — Riding on its startup success and flush with fresh capital, taxi-hailing smartphone app Uber is making a big push into Asia. There's a twist, though: Instead of being the game-changing phenomena it was in the U.S., Uber faces a slew of competitors using similar technology. The concept Uber helped pioneer just four years ago has transformed some markets before it even had a chance to enter them. Homegrown taxi apps are already slogging it out for dominance in numerous Asian countries. By Kay Johnson. SENT: 900 words, photos.

DIGITAL LIFE-REVIEW-WINDOWS CORTANA ASSISTANT

NEW YORK — With the new Cortana virtual assistant, Windows catches up with Apple's iOS and Google's Android in a major way. Microsoft takes some of the best parts of Apple's and Google's virtual assistants and adds a few useful tools of its own. The result is Cortana, named after an artificial-intelligence character in Microsoft's "Halo" video games. By Anick Jesdanun. SENT: 1,110 words, photos.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

WALL STREET

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks mount a modest rally, helping investors recover some of the ground lost after a rough finish last week. Investors were bracing for another round of discouraging earnings and the third day in a row for stocks. But from the get go, the market pushed higher, receiving a boost from solid earnings from Citigroup and a strong pickup in retail sales last month. By Alex Veiga. SENT: 760 words. UPCOMING: 700 words by 5:30 p.m.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES

WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department reports how much companies adjusted their stockpiles February. In January, businesses continued to restock shelves and warehouses, but sales plunged during the snowstorm-plagued month. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 450 words.

— OIL PRICES — The price of oil rises on the prospect of higher demand in the U.S. and escalating tensions in Ukraine. SENT: 270 words.

— BUDGET DEFICIT — A congressional report predicts slightly smaller deficits both this year and over the coming decade, with lower spending on federal health care spending being the main reason. SENT: 280 words.

INDUSTRY:

— BRITAIN-GSK-POLAND — The BBC reports that pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is accused of bribing doctors to prescribe medicines in Poland. SENT: 150 words.

— ENDURANCE-ASPEN INSURANCE-ACQUISITION — Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd. says it has proposed to buy Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd. in a deal worth about $3.2 billion after being snubbed by the fellow insurance company. SENT: 270 words.

— TIAA-CREF-NUVEEN — Financial services provider TIAA-CREF says it's buying investment manager Nuveen Investments in a deal valued at $6.25 billion including debt. SENT: 130 words.

— CHINA-GLENCOREXSTRATA-DEAL — A group of Chinese state-owned companies is buying a Peruvian copper mine from Glencore Xstrata Plc for $5.85 billion, adding to a wave of Chinese resource acquisitions abroad. SENT: 230 words.

— FRANCE-PEUGEOT CITROEN — Loss-making French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen says it aims to return to profitability by 2018 by reducing the number of models and relying on its recent rescue by Chinese investors and the French state. SENT: 150 words, photos.

— CHINA-PORK IPO — A Chinese company that is the world's biggest pork producer says it plans to raise up to $5.3 billion in an initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange. SENT: 580 words.

— HEALTH CARE-COSTS — A new government report says the Affordable Care Act's health insurance subsidies will cost a little less than previously thought. SENT: 630 words.

— GENERAL MOTORS-PERSONNEL — General Motors is replacing the executives in charge of communications and human resources as it struggles with a string of embarrassing recalls that have led to congressional hearings and federal investigations. SENT: 510 words.

— SOUTHWEST AIRLINES-PROFIT SHARING — Southwest Airlines says employees will get a record $228 million in profit-sharing this year, nearly double the payout of a year ago. SENT: 140 words.

—BRITAIN-PHONE HACKING — Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson took the stand at Britain's phone hacking trial Monday, saying his affair with fellow executive Rebekah Brooks was wrong but didn't lead him to share work secrets with her. SENT: 340 words.

— VIDALIA ONION BATTLE — No Vidalia onion will be harvested before its time. So says the agricultural commissioner who claims farmers should face fines for shipping one of Georgia's premier crops too early, potentially threatening their renowned sweet, delectable taste. Sent: 770 words.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

SMARTPHONE DURABILITY

NEW YORK — Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone is more durable than last year's model and other leading Android phones, but the iPhone 5s outperformed all of them in part because of its smaller size, a new study finds. By Anick Jesdanun. SENT: 520 words.

— TWITTER-STOCK SALES — Twitter says its CEO Dick Costolo and co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams have no plans to sell any of their shares when the company's post-IPO lock-up expires on May 5. SENT: 120 words.

— DATA BREACHES — The number of Americans who have had important personal information stolen online is on the rise, according to a new Pew Research Center report. SENT: 280 words.

— NETFLIX-COMCAST — Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in 17 months, thanks to tolls Netflix pays Comcast for a more direct connection to its network. SENT: 720 words.

— GOOGLE-TITAN AEROSPACE — Google has bought Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, saying it could help bring Internet access to remote parts of the world as well as solve other problems. SENT: 170 words.

— LIONS GATE-ROCKETJUMP — Lions Gate partners with online video creator RocketJump in "first look" deal. SENT: 130 words.

EARNINGS:

EARNS-CITIGROUP

NEW YORK — Citigroup says its first-quarter earnings rose, beating the expectations of Wall Street analysts. The bank made $4.1 billion in the first quarter, after stripping out the effects of an accounting change and a tax item. That was up 2.5 percent from the same period a year earlier, when it made $4 billion. By Steve Rothwell. SENT: 570 words.

INTERNATIONAL:

WORLD TRADE

BERLIN — The World Trade Organization predicts global commerce will grow 5.3 percent next year, an improvement that would bring it back in line with its 1993-2013 historic average. SENT: 110 words.

— EMIRATES-SPAIN — King Juan Carlos of Spain began a visit to the Persian Gulf region by telling United Arab Emirates officials that deepening ties with their oil-rich country was a top priority, highlighting the role wealthy Arab states could play in shoring up the battered Spanish economy. By Adam Schreck. SENT: 550 words, photos.

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.

CENTERPIECE

Dividend fears unfounded

Higher dividend taxes didn't slam dividend stocks last year. That was a fear after rates rose for big earners. Individuals who made more than $400,000 are paying 23.8 percent of their 2013 qualified dividend income in taxes, for example. That's up from the former top rate of 15 percent. But dividend stocks surged last year despite worries that there would be less demand because of increased taxes. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.

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