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Economy up in early part of year

A strong housing recovery and solid auto sales helped the U.S. economy grow at a moderate pace from late February through early April, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday.

The growth was widespread across the country and slightly faster than the “modest to moderate” pace cited in the previous two surveys.

All of the Fed’s 12 bank districts reported modest or moderate growth.

Two districts said growth accelerated from the previous survey.

Sales of Galaxy S 4 start next week in US

U.S. wireless carriers have started revealing prices for Samsung’s new flagship phone, the Galaxy S 4, which goes on sale starting next week.

AT&T Inc. has started taking advance orders and says phones will ship starting April 30. It’s charging $200 for the base model, with 16 gigabytes of memory, under a two-year contract.

Sprint Nextel Corp. starts taking advance orders Thursday and says in-store sales start April 27. It charges $250 for the base model, or $150 if the buyer is coming over from another carrier.

T-Mobile USA starts taking advance orders next Wednesday.

Steel Dynamics reports earnings up 6 percent

Steel Dynamics Inc. on Wednesday reported first-quarter earnings of $48.2 million, or 21 cents per diluted share, inching up 6 percent when compared to the $45.7 million, or 20 cents a share, posted for the same three-month period of 2012.

The Fort Wayne-based steelmaker and metals recycler also reported net sales of $1.8 billion for the quarter.

Mark Millett, president and CEO, said global economic uncertainty presented a challenge for the company, but in a written statement he praised employees’ ability to set several production records while improving already high safety levels.

Coats, Donnelly file farm flexibility bill

Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Wednesday they have introduced federal legislation to make the Farm Flex program both permanent and nationwide.

Farm Flex is a pilot program in seven states, including Indiana, that lets farmers waive federal subsidies and accompanying production restrictions so they can grow specialty crops on acres designated for corn, soybeans and wheat. The pilot program, which was part of the 2008 farm bill, is scheduled to expire Sept. 30.

“Our legislation would provide farmers the flexibility they need to respond to market signals when making planting decisions, rather than be restricted by federal rules to grow a particular crop,” Coats said in a statement.

Tesco prepares to pull out of US

Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer by sales, is to pull out of the U.S., selling off its lossmaking Fresh & Easy supermarket chain after it failed to transfer its winning formula from the U.K. to the Western states.

The supermarket group booked a loss of $1.8 billion for the U.S. misadventure, which helped send net profit for the year down 96 percent to $183 million.

Fresh & Easy – which employs about 5,000 people and has about 200 stores in Arizona, California and Nevada – flopped mainly because Tesco opened the chain just before the start of the economic crisis and misjudged customers’ shopping habits.