FINANCIAL MARKETS

US stocks turn higher in latest lightning shift for markets

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks shook off an early wobble and headed higher in midday trading today, the latest turn for a market that has suddenly become prone to quick moves not only day to day but also hour to hour. The volatility comes as investors question whether a global trade war may be on the way and how quickly interest rates will rise.

At 12:57 p.m. Eastern Time, the S&P 500 was up 24 points, to 2,715.

The Dow rose 217 points, to 24,755.

And the Nasdaq was up 62 points, to 7,320.

TRUMP-TRADE

Trump: 'Not backing down' on tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says "we're not backing down" on his push to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum despite criticism from fellow Republicans.

The president said during an Oval Office meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today that he doesn't expect to have a trade war as a result of his push to crack down on a flood of steel imports.

The president spoke after a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said the speaker was "extremely worried" about the consequences of a trade war and urging the White House not to advance the plan.

Trump says the U.S. has had a "very bad deal" with Mexico under the NAFTA agreement but he says the tariffs "could be part of NAFTA."

ECONOMY SERVICES

US services firms' expansion slips a bit in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. services firms grew more slowly in February compared with the previous month, but still expanded at a healthy clip.

The Institute for Supply Management says its services index slipped to 59.5, from 59.9 in January. The January reading was the highest since 2005. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.

A sharp drop in a gauge of employment, suggesting that companies are hiring workers at a much slower pace, pushed the index lower. The employment index fell to 55 from 61.6.

The services index measures sales, hiring and other activity among companies in a range of industries, including finance, construction, retail, health care and hotels.

Despite the small decline, the overall reading of the index points to an economy growing at a healthy pace.

UBER-DATA BREACH-PENNSYLVANIA

Uber sued after data stolen by hackers covered up

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pennsylvania's attorney general is suing the ride-hailing company Uber, saying it broke state law when it failed to notify thousands of drivers for a year that hackers stole their personal information.

The lawsuit filed today in Philadelphia says hackers stole the names and drivers' license numbers of at least 13,500 Pennsylvania Uber drivers. It accuses Uber of violating a state law to notify people of a data breach affecting them within a "reasonable time frame."

Uber acknowledged in November that for more than a year it covered up a hacking attack that stole personal information about more than 57 million customers and drivers. Pennsylvania's lawsuit seeks civil penalties in the millions of dollars.

An Uber spokesman has declined immediate comment. Washington state and Chicago have also sued Uber.

FOOD BOXES-WORRIED STORES

'Harvest Boxes': Grocers fear for business, patrons' health

RANKIN, Pa. (AP) — Small grocers in poor areas worry about a federal proposal to replace food stamps with "America's Harvest Boxes."

Many say it could hurt not only their bottom line, but also their patrons' nutrition. Shoppers themselves have many questions about the proposal, for which details are few.

An administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture tells The Associated Press that he wants retailers and states to play a role in the program.

Brandon Lipps of the department's food and nutrition service says it's true a portion of food-stamp benefits would be withheld in favor of the harvest box. But he says shoppers would still receive roughly 60 percent of their benefits in cash to spend at grocery stores.

WALMART-MEAL KITS

Walmart expanding meal kits to more stores

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Walmart is expanding its meal kits nationwide after testing the service in some of its stores, a move that will heighten its competition with Amazon.

Walmart Inc. says meal kits will be in more than 2,000 of its stores this year, after starting the kits out at more than 250 stores initially. Consumers can either buy directly in store, or order kits online and pick them up later that day.

Shoppers can buy pre-portioned meal kits that they need to cook, rotisserie chicken meals or one step meals that just need to be heated up. The meals feed two people and are priced between $8 and $15.

Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, has continued its battle with Amazon for shoppers. Amazon started selling ready-to-cook meals in July.

GLOBAL ENERGY

US oil expected to meet most of world's growth in demand

HOUSTON (AP) — A global energy watchdog says booming production in the United States will meet 80 percent global growth in demand for oil over the next five years.

The International Energy Agency believes slow growth from OPEC will be offset by oilfields in the U.S.

The group, based in Paris, issued its annual oil market report on Monday. The resurgence in U.S. production is the most prominent change since the group's last forecast.

However, the retreat by oil producers during an oil-price plunge between 2014 and 2016, continues to raise the specter that not enough money has been spent on exploration, which can result in shortages and price spikes.

LOBSTER GROUP-PRESIDENT

Maine's influential lobster fishing group has a new leader

ROCKPORT, Maine (AP) — One of the most influential commercial fishing groups in New England is handing over its top position to a new leader for the first time in almost three decades.

The Maine Lobstermen's Association has elected Kristan Porter of Cutler to replace David Cousens of South Thomaston. Cousens served as president since 1991. Porter took over on Friday during a meeting at the Maine Fishermen's Forum.

Porter had previously been vice president of the group. Cousens stepped down from his position on good terms with the organization.

Porter's taking over the 1,200-member association after a year in which fishermen caught a little more than 110.8 million pounds (50.3 million kilograms) of lobster. That followed a stretch of five consecutive years in which Maine topped 120 million pounds (54 million kilograms) annually.

BRITAIN-ECONOMY

Survey shows UK economy picked up in February

LONDON (AP) — A closely monitored survey is indicating that the British economy picked up in February following a subdued start to the year, with the crucial services sector shoring up growth.

In the survey, financial information firm IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute for Procurement & Supply, said their 'all-sector' purchasing managers' index — a broad gauge of economic activity — rose from 53.1 points in January, its lowest since August 2016, to 54.2 in February.

Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, a forecaster that uses the model of Britain's Treasury to assess the economy, says the survey was "reasonably reassuring." He said it reinforces his belief that the Bank of England will raise its main interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 0.75 percent.

GERMANY-VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen CEO: Clarity is needed on trade measures

GENEVA (AP) — The CEO of German automaker Volkswagen says businesses like his need clarity about new trade measures announced by the Trump administration before they can decide what to do.

CEO Matthias Mueller said it's up to elected officials on both sides to talk "so that we have clarity, so that companies like Volkswagen can make the corresponding decisions."

Mueller said if the U.S. has decided to change its earlier commitment to globalization then "we should sit at the table with the Americans, look at the situation, and try to understand why the past strategy was wrong, and what a future common strategy could be."

Mueller spoke today at a Volkswagen event ahead of the Geneva International Motor Show.

FRANCE-US-INSURANCE DEAL

Big insurance deal: France's AXA buys XL for $15 billion

PARIS (AP) — French insurance giant AXA is getting even bigger with a purchase of property and casualty insurer XL Group in a deal worth more than $15 billion.

Paris-based AXA says it has reached an agreement to buy all of XL Group Ltd in a deal approved by both boards. The deal gives AXA access to Bermuda-based XL's extensive U.S. operations.

The purchase will make AXA one of the world's biggest commercial property and casualty insurers. It said the deal will make AXA more focused on insurance risks instead of financial risks, a key issue amid tighter regulation of financial markets.

The offer is 33 percent higher than XL's closing share price Friday. AXA's shares sank on announcement of the deal.

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY-REAL ESTATE

Buffett's firm adds German real estate broker to its network

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Berkshire Hathaway's real estate brokerage is expanding overseas with an acquisition in Germany.

Berkshire Hathaway Home Services says it is adding Berlin-based Rubina Real Estate to its network.

Financial terms haven't been disclosed.

The deal gives Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate another operation in Germany and helps raise the Omaha, Nebraska-based company's profile in Europe.

Gino Blefari is CEO of the real estate network. He says more international franchises are likely.

ILLEGAL HOTEL-QUEENS

NYC officials shutter illegal hotel operating in Queens home

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City officials say they've shut down a Queens house that was operating as an illegal hotel and offering tents in a backyard at a rate of $21 per night.

The Queens home was hit with a partial vacate order after being deemed "imminently perilous to life." The Daily News reports the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement found 27 mattresses crammed into two floors, four guests and one permanent resident during an inspection on Feb. 21.

Officials say the two-family building had been illegally converted to host seven bedrooms.

The illegal hotel was listed on the short-term rental website Airbnb with rates as low as $16. Airbnb says it supports crackdowns on violators of their "one-host, one-home policy."

BRITAIN-OBIT-BAYLIS

Inventor's firm says creator of the wind-up radio has died

LONDON (AP) — Trevor Baylis, creator of the clockwork or wind-up radio, has died at 80.

David Bunting, CEO of Trevor Baylis Brands, says Baylis died today after a lengthy illness.

Baylis developed his best-known invention after seeing a television program on AIDS in Africa and learning that people weren't getting lifesaving information because they didn't have electricity and couldn't afford batteries to power radios.

Inspired by old-fashioned gramophones, Baylis designed a wind-up radio. The invention won him international acclaim and an audience with South African icon Nelson Mandela, but didn't pay huge dividends. He later formed a company to help inventors protect and market products, but wasn't motivated by wealth.

"Inventing is not about the money," he was quoted by the BBC as saying. "Who wants to be the richest man in the graveyard?"