Blackstone to buy Chicago's Willis Tower

Blackstone Group, a private equity real estate investor with about $81 billion under management, has reached an agreement to buy Chicago's iconic Willis Tower, the company said. The purchase price is $1.3 billion, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing an anonymous source. The deal for the formerly named Sears Tower, said to have been reached over the weekend, would be the highest price ever paid for a U.S. office tower outside of New York. It would also shatter the Chicago record of $850 million set last year. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the agreement on MarketWatch, said Blackstone plans to invest heavily in the retail portion of the nation's second-tallest building and in upgrading its 103rd-floor Skydeck, in hopes the deck will become a cash cow like those of other skyscrapers.

McIlroy replaces Woods on EA's game title

Now that Rory McIlroy has dethroned Tiger Woods as the world's top-ranked golfer, he is claiming his rightful place as No. 1 in the world of virtual tournaments. Electronic Arts Inc., the second-largest U.S. video game publisher, is making the 25-year-old champion the face of its new video game, the Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company announced, replacing Woods after 16 years. The $60 game comes out in June, EA said. McIlroy's surge to No. 1 in 2012 in the Official World Golf Ranking and again last year gives EA a fresh personality with the possibility of staying power in the game. He also brings a large fan base — more than 2.3 million followers on Twitter.

Industrial production declined last month

Output at U.S. factories fell for a third straight month in February, driven by a big drop in production at auto plants. The Federal Reserve said that manufacturing output fell 0.2 percent in February, following a decline of 0.3 percent in January. Overall industrial production edged up a slight 0.1 percent in February, as unusually cold weather in many parts of the country led to a surge at utilities. The weakness at factories is attributed in part to a stronger dollar, which makes U.S. exports more expensive on overseas markets, and supply disruptions from the labor dispute at West Coast ports. Analysts, however, aren't too concerned. They say rising consumer spending will likely offset the recent lackluster showing in manufacturing.

Draghi sees nascent recovery in eurozone

A sustained economic recovery is finally arriving in the 19-country eurozone, European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said — a recovery he says must be used to complete the euro currency union and fix its problems for good. Draghi said in a speech at a financial forum in Frankfurt that "most indicators suggest a sustained recovery is taking hold" as consumers and businesses grow more confident and banks become more willing to lend. The head of the chief monetary authority for the shared currency said the upturn was helped by cheaper oil prices and by the central bank's stimulus policies. The ECB has cut its benchmark interest rate to near zero at 0.05 percent and launched large-scale purchases of government and corporate bonds with newly printed money to lower longer-term borrowing costs and raise inflation from worrisome low levels.

Craft beers up to 11 percent of U.S. sales

Craft beers accounted for 11 percent of U.S. beer sales volume in 2014, marking the first time that segment reached the double-digit mark, according to an annual industry report. Craft brewers last year produced 22.2 million barrels, and saw an 18 percent increase in sales volume and a 22 percent increase in retail dollar sales, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group representing small and independent craft brewers. Craft brewers hope to account for a 20 percent market share by 2020, said Bart Watson, the association's chief economist. The number of operating breweries grew 19 percent, totaling 3,464 breweries, with 3,418 considered craft breweries, including 1,871 microbreweries, 1,412 brew pubs and 135 regional craft breweries.

American Airlines will join the S&P 500

S&P Dow Jones Indices said American Airlines Group will soon be joining the S&P 500 index. The Fort Worth, Texas, holding company for American Airlines and US Airways will be added to the index after the close of trading on Friday. American Airlines is replacing health care company Allergan, which is being acquired by Actavis in a deal expected to close Tuesday. Shares of American are up about 38 percent in the past year and added $1.83, or 3.6 percent, to $52.05 in extended trading.

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