The daily business briefing: March 16, 2016

Harold Maass
Leon Neal/Getty Images
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Obama administration cancels plan to allow drilling in Atlantic

The Obama administration on Tuesday withdrew its plan to allow oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic off the Southeast coast. The announcement followed opposition voiced by coastal residents from Georgia to Virginia, but still came as a surprise. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the reversal was driven by concerns in coastal communities. The move comes as oil prices have dropped to their lowest levels in years, a factor expected to limit any objections to blocking new drilling. [The New York Times]


Merger creates Europe's biggest financial market operator

The London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Borse agreed Wednesday to merge. The deal will create Europe's biggest market operator, with a value of more than $30 billion. LSE shareholders will own 45.6 percent of the merged exchange, while Deutsche Borse shareholders will own the rest. The companies said combining operations would produce $500 million in annual cost savings. [MarketWatch]


Fed expected to hold off on next rate hike

Federal Reserve policy makers are not expected to hike interest rates when they announce the results of their two-day meeting on Wednesday. Analysts will surely then examine the Fed's statement on economic conditions for hints of whether a rate hike is likely in June. The Fed raised its benchmark rate for the first time in nearly a decade in December, pushing it from near zero to between 0.25 and 0.5 percent. Since then, however, global markets and oil prices have fallen, and China's economy has slowed down. [The New York Times]


Valeant Pharmaceuticals shares lose 50 percent

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International shares dropped by 50 percent on Tuesday after the company said it could default on $30 billion in debt due to a delay in filing its annual report. It was the company's biggest decline ever. The Canadian drugmaker also cut its 2016 sales forecast. The bad news came after blockbuster years in which Valeant posted double-digit sales growth. "They’re going from a growth company to a cigarette butt,” said fund manager Gary Herbert of Brandywine Global Investment Management in Philadelphia. [Reuters, Bloomberg]


Chipotle sales plunge

Chipotle Mexican Grill said Tuesday that sales at its established outlets fell by 26 percent in February after several outbreaks of food-borne illnesses linked to its restaurants. The news sent Chipotle shares tumbling by 3 percent in extended trading. The company has hired James Marsden as executive director of food safety, and had reported signs of recovery before taking another sales hit in March after a Boston-area restaurant was briefly closed when several employees fell ill with suspected norovirus. [Reuters]