Year-end growth spurt not likely to be repeated

The burst of energy the economy showed at the end of last year isn’t likely to be repeated anytime soon.The Commerce Department reported Friday that the economy grew at a 5.6 percent pace in the October-to-December quarter in its third and final estimate of economic activity during the period.

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Even though growth turned out to be a tad less than the government’s prior two estimates for the quarter, the new reading still marked the strongest showing in six years.

Many economists, however, think the economy has slowed in the current quarter to about half the pace seen at the end of last year. [Read the full article]

This undated photo released by the California Department of Food and Agriculture shows a European grapevine moth. One of the dirty secrets of California’s wine country is now on everyone’s lips. Somehow a voracious grape-eating moth has found its way nonstop from Europe to the heart of the Napa Valley. (AP photo/California Department of Food and Agriculture) NO SALES

One of the dirty secrets of California’s wine country is now on everyone’s lips. Somehow a voracious grape-eating moth has found its way nonstop from Europe to the heart of the Napa Valley, the land of three-figure cabernet. With valuable fruit at risk, the region’s fast and loose play with federal agriculture quarantine laws is getting new scrutiny from investigators and researchers.

Suitcase smuggling is the winked-at act of sneaking in cane cuttings to clone vines from France’s premier vineyards, hoping to replicate success. [Read the full article]

In this film publicity image released by Paramount Pictures,Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera, center, is shown a scene is shown from “How to Train Your Dragon.” (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)

“How to Train Your Dragon” breathed a bit of box-office fire with a $43.3 million opening weekend and a No. 1 debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Distributed by Paramount, the DreamWorks Animation adventure came in well behind the studio’s last cartoon comedy, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” which opened with $59.3 million over the same weekend last year.

With strong reviews and enthusiastic responses from viewers in exit polls, DreamWorks expects “How to Train Your Dragon” to have more staying power than “Monsters vs. Aliens” in subsequent weekends, though.

“People just love the film, so we’re really anticipating we’ll benefit from strong word of mouth going forward,” said Anne Globe, head of marketing for DreamWorks. [Read the full article]

Investors are betting that small-caps will be the stock market’s standouts as the economy improves.

Some of the strongest mutual fund returns in the January-March quarter have come from funds that focus on smaller companies.

Small-capitalization value funds returned an average 9.3 percent and small-cap growth funds returned 7.2 percent during the quarter. The numbers topped the 3.7 percent return for large-cap growth funds and the 5.3 percent return for large-cap value funds. The figures reflect trading through Thursday so they don’t include the final four trading days of the quarter.

Value funds invest in companies that are considered undervalued and that are expected to pay dividends. Growth funds concentrate on stocks that are expected to post strong gains in price but aren’t likely to hand out dividends. Many small companies are considered growth stocks because they shovel their cash into expanding and aren’t as likely to have a long history. [Read the full article]

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