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2Q economic growth at 1.7%

The U.S. economy grew at a tepid 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, suggesting growth will stay weak in the second half of the year. Slightly stronger consumer spending and greater exports were the main reasons the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that growth was better than its initial estimate of 1.5 percent. Still, growth has slowed from the 2 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter and the 4.1 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2011. Economists expect modest improvement in the gross domestic product in the second half of the year, predicting the economy will keep growing at a rate of around 2 percent. GDP measures the country's total output of goods and services. A third and final estimate of second-quarter growth will be released next month.

Most home contracts since '10

Americans signed the most contracts to buy homes in July than at any other point in the last two years, further evidence of a housing recovery. The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes jumped 2.4 percent in July to 101.7. That's the highest reading since April 2010, the last month that buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit. A reading of 100 is considered healthy. Contract signings typically indicate where the housing market is headed. There's generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed deal.

Sony 'ultra-HD' TV on the way

High-definition TVs roughly quadrupled the resolution of the sets that came before them. Now the industry is poised to do it again. Sony says that by December, U.S. stores will sell a TV set with four times the resolution of today's best HDTVs. The set will measure 84 inches on the diagonal, making the screen four times as large as the common 42-inch set. Sony executives didn't reveal the price of the set Wednesday. There is, for now, very little video content available that can take advantage of the higher resolution. With some work and know-how, a computer connected to the set can display video in the ultra-HD "4K" resolution.

United: Glitch delayed flights

United Airlines said Wednesday that a piece of computer hardware was behind the technology meltdown that delayed 580 flights and shut down its website for more than two hours Tuesday. The outage prevented workers from boarding passengers on time and also caused nine flight cancellations. The problem was a piece of hardware in a data center that failed to communicate properly with other computer equipment, said Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for United Continental Holdings Inc. A backup system failed to take over for the troubled hardware. United's computer problems came on the same day that airlines already had to deal with Hurricane Isaac, which has disrupted travel in cities around the Gulf of Mexico.


France sets plan to hire youth

The French government wants companies to hire young people so much that it's offering to pick up the tab. The new Socialist president, François Hollande, told his cabinet Wednesday that he wants to wage a war on unemployment and unveiled a plan for the government to pay most of the salaries of tens of thousands of young people hired next year. Unemployment in France is 10 percent, but nearly 23 percent for those under 25. That's an imbalance that many European countries are struggling with: In Spain, youth unemployment is over 52 percent; it's 34 percent in Italy. European employers are especially reluctant to hire young people because restrictive labor laws make it hard for companies to lay off employees. -- AP

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