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US economy grows 6.4% in Q1

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy grew at a solid 6.4% rate in the first three months of this year, setting the stage for what economists are forecasting could be the strongest year for the economy in possibly seven decades.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that growth in the gross domestic product, the country's total output of goods and services, was unchanged from two previous estimates. The gain represented an acceleration from growth at a 4.3% rate in the fourth quarter.

Economists believe GDP growth has accelerated even more in the current April-June quarter as increased vaccinations have allowed for more businesses to re-open and encouraged consumer to get out and spend. The spending has been aided by the nearly $3 trillion in support the government has approved since December.

“This summer will be hot for the U.S. economy,” predicted Lydia Boussour, lead U.S. economist for Oxford Economics. “As the health situation continues to improve, consumers sitting on piles of savings will give into the urge to splurge on services and experiences they felt deprived of during the pandemic.”

Boussour forecast that GDP growth in the current April-June quarter will surge to an annual rate of 12% and growth for the entire year will come in at 7.5%. That would be the best annual performance since 1951.

BuzzFeed to be publicly traded firm

NEW YORK — Digital media company BuzzFeed is setting its sights on growth. It plans to become a publicly traded company with an implied value of $1.5 billion through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company.

BuzzFeed hopes the move will put it in a better position to capture lucrative digital ad dollars against much bigger rivals like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

The company, founded by Jonah Peretti in 2006 and initially known for listicles and online quizzes, has established itself as a serious contender in the news business, this year winning a Pulitzer for international reporting. Its other brands include Tasty, the world's largest social food network.

It has been buying up competitors, including HuffPost, the media outlet founded in 2005 as The Huffington Post, from Verizon Media in November. BuzzFeed said Thursday that it plans to buy Complex Networks from Verizon and Hearst for $300 million. Complex is a global youth network that engages with millennials and Gen Z.

Digital advertising is a tough space to succeed in, and digital newsrooms have been consolidating, including Vox’s purchase of New York Magazine and its digital arms. Facebook and Google get the majority of digital-ad dollars. In a statement, Peretti said the acquisition of Complex would “open the door to even more revenue opportunities.”

Durable goods orders rise 2.3%

WASHINGTON — Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose for the 12th time in the last 13 months in May, pulled up by surgin demand for civilian aircraft.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods — meant to last at least three years — climbed 2.3% in May, reversing a 0.8% drop in April and coming despite a backlogged supply chain and a shortage of workers. Orders for aircraft shot up 27.4% last month after climbing 31.5% in April. Excluding transportation orders — which can bounce wildly from month to month — durable goods orders rose 0.3% last month, down from a 1.7% gain in April.

A category that tracks business investment — orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft — dipped 0.1% in May after rising 2.7% in April.

American industry is thriving despite problems with backlogged supply chains and a shortage of workers. The Federal Reserve reported earlier this month that factory production climbed 0.9% on surging output of cars, trucks and auto parts. The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, said that its manufacturing index signalled that factories were growing in May for the 12th straight month.

— Associated Press

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