FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks ease, led by health care companies

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are slightly lower in midday trading on Wall Street, led by declines in health care companies.

Distributors of prescription drugs and medical suppliers took some of the biggest losses today.

At 12:41 p.m. Eastern Time, the Dow dropped 122 points, to 24,479. The S&P 500 was down 8 points to 2,648. And the Nasdaq dropped 18 points, to 6,966.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.85 percent.

GLOBAL ENERGY

US oil output surge 'reminiscent' of run-up to 2014 crash

PARIS (AP) — A leading energy watchdog says that the boom in U.S. oil production is reminiscent of the rise in output that eventually led to the 2014 crash in crude prices.

The International Energy Agency, a policy adviser to countries, says in its monthly report that "in 2018, fast rising production in non-OPEC countries, led by the U.S., is likely to grow by more than demand."

A recent, steady increase in the price of oil has seen more U.S. producers in particular come back on line. That's because U.S. shale oil extraction requires higher selling prices to break even than production in states like Saudi Arabia.

The Paris-based IEA says that the current situation is "reminiscent" of a wave of U.S. shale growth that preceded the 2014 crash in energy prices.

FEDERAL RESERVE-POWELL

Powell pledges to remain alert to emerging stability risks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the global economy is recovering strongly for the first time in a decade, but the central bank needs to remain alert to any emerging risks to financial stability.

Powell says the central bank is in the process of "gradually" raising interest rates and trimming its massive holdings of Treasury bonds. Powell says the Fed is seeking to normalize its policies in a way that will extend the recovery and bolster its goals of achieving stable inflation and maximum employment.

"We will remain alert to any developing risks to financial stability," Powell says.

Powell made the comments during a brief ceremonial swearing-in on Tuesday. He took the oath of office the first time on Feb. 5 when he succeeded Janet Yellen as Fed chairman.

WALGREENS-AMERISOURCE BERGEN

Amerisource shares jump on Walgreens buyout report

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of AmerisourceBergen soared before the opening bell Tuesday on reports that Walgreens is pursuing a complete takeover of the huge drug distributor.

The Wall Street Journal reported late Monday that Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. reached out to AmerisourceBergen Corp. about a potential deal several weeks ago. The paper, citing anonymous sources, said no offer is on the table.

Walgreens already owns about 26 percent of the company, according to data provider FactSet.

AmerisourceBergen Corp. jumped more than 13 percent, to $101.49 in premarket trading.

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. runs more than 13,200 stores in 11 countries, and is the largest U.S. drugstore chain. Last September, it said it would spend $4.38 billion to buy nearly 2,000 Rite Aid stores and some distribution centers and inventory.

AMAZON-LEGISLATIVE FIGHT

Tech giant sparks Georgia Capitol debate

ATLANTA (AP) — Amazon's name has become a contentious rallying cry inside the Georgia Capitol.

With Atlanta among the 20 cities being considered for Amazon's second headquarters, lawmakers and lobbyists are citing the corporate giant in various legislative battles.

Two flashpoints have been a "religious liberties" bill — viewed by some as anti-LGBT — as well as a trio of bills dubbed by opponents as "adios Amazon" because they're related to immigration issues.

Democratic Rep. Bee Nguyen says the legislation is discriminatory and negatively affecting Atlanta's bid.

But not all lawmakers are convinced. Sen. Josh McKoon says Amazon is being used as a scare tactic and there is "zero evidence" that conservative policies make a state less likely to attract employers like Amazon.

APPLEBEE'S RACIAL PROFILING

Applebee's fires 3 over racial profiling at Missouri store

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Applebee's has temporarily closed a suburban Kansas City restaurant and fired three employees accused of falsely accusing two black women of "dining and dashing."

The Kansas City Star reports Applebee's said in a statement that it doesn't "tolerate racism, bigotry or harassment." It said it's closing the restaurant in the Independence Center shopping mall in Independence, Missouri, so employees can "regroup, learn and grow."

There have been more than 2 million views of the video Alexis Brison posted Saturday to Facebook of her and a friend denying allegations that they previously left the Applebee's without paying. Brison, of St. Louis, began recording after being confronted by a police officer, mall security guard and Applebee's manager.

She's heard saying, "This is what black people have to deal with."

GATES FOUNDATION-POVERTY

Bill, Melinda Gates turn attention toward poverty in America

UNDATED (AP) — Bill and Melinda Gates are rethinking their philanthropic work in America as they confront the country's growing inequity and a president they disagree with.

The couple says in their foundation's annual letter that they're turning their attention in the United States toward poverty and economic mobility.

The foundation says it's studying related issues such as employment, race and housing, but it has no plans for any particular initiatives yet.

SKOREA-GM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — General Motors says it will close an underutilized factory in Gunsan, South Korea, by the end of May as part of a restructuring of its operations.

A GM statement said Monday that it has proposed to its labor union and other stakeholders a plan involving further investments in South Korea that would help save jobs.

The company has said it urgently needs better cost performance from its operations in the country.

CHEMICAL-RIVER

North Carolina requiring new steps to reduce GenX emissions

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina environmental regulators have ordered a chemical company to take further steps to reduce emissions of chemicals that have questionable health effects.

The state Department of Environmental Quality issued a notice of violation Monday telling Chemours to take more actions to control emissions of GenX and other compounds at its Bladen County plant. GenX is used to make Teflon and other coatings.

The notice orders the company to do a better job of cutting back on air emissions with particles that can settle and contribute to groundwater contamination.

Delaware-based Chemours didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

State lawmakers and regulators have been taking a closer look at GenX amid concerns that the chemical is present in waterways that supply drinking water to eastern North Carolina communities.

HANCOCK CENTER-CHICAGO

Chicago's 100-story Hancock building getting new name

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago's 100-story John Hancock Center along Michigan Avenue is getting a new name.

One of the skyscraper's owners tells the Chicago Tribune that for now the building will be known as 875 N. Michigan Ave. while a new naming rights deal is sought. Hearn Co. president and CEO Stephen Hearn says the insurance company "just decided to have their name removed." Its name and logos throughout the building will be taken down immediately.

The insurer, acquired by Toronto-based Manulife Financial in 2004, hasn't been a tenant for many years. Manulife representatives didn't respond to requests for comment from the newspaper.

The building is the fourth-tallest in Chicago at 1,128 feet and is known for its black, X-shaped braces. Hearn says it "deserves a more important identity than simply the address."