COMMUNICATIONS
AT&T-Time Warner
deal is completed

AT&T closed its landmark megamerger with Time Warner on Thursday night, completing the $85 billion deal swiftly ahead of its June 20 deadline.

The rapid move came as the Justice Department said Thursday it would not seek a judicial stay of the deal, even as department officials remained undecided on whether to appeal a judge’s decision earlier this week permitting the two companies to move forward. The quick closing could put further pressure on antitrust regulators not to continue fighting.

AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said the merger combines the strengths of both companies.

The merger combines AT&T’s massive Internet distribution network with Time Warner’s vast trove of premium content, including HBO, Warner Bros., CNN, TBS and TNT. It will allow AT&T not only to sell access to that content over mobile and broadband connections but also targeted advertising based on customer data.

With the closing of the deal, AT&T becomes one of a select few Internet providers to own exclusive content. Verizon owns AOL and Yahoo, while Comcast owns NBCUniversal. Comcast on Wednesday announced a major merger bid of its own, seeking to outmaneuver Disney for a purchase of 21st Century Fox.

Time Warner chief executive Jeff Bewkes will stay on for an unspecified amount of time as a senior adviser during the transition period, AT&T said.

— Brian Fung

RETAIL
U.S. sales in May rose by most in 6 months

U.S. retail sales in May rose by the most in six months, as consumers spent more at home and garden stores, gas stations, and restaurants.

Retail sales increased 0.8 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Thursday, the largest increase since November. Excluding the volatile gas and auto categories, sales also rose 0.8 percent. April’s sales growth was revised higher, to 0.4 percent from 0.2 percent.

Consumers are confident about the U.S. economy, buoyed by steady job gains, an unemployment rate at an 18-year low and the Republican-backed tax cuts. Healthier consumer spending is boosting the economy after a sluggish first quarter. Analysts say growth is likely to reach 4 percent in the April-to-June quarter, up from 2.2 percent in the first three months of the year.

Sales at home and garden stores jumped 2.4 percent, the most in eight months, and rose 2 percent at gas stations, the latter increase mostly reflecting higher gas prices.

— Associated Press

ECONOMY
IMF sees growth, then steep decline for U.S.

The International Monetary Fund projects that the U.S. economy will post solid growth this year and next, helped by the Republican-backed tax cuts. But then, it says, the economy will slide as huge budget deficits drag growth far below the Trump administration’s goals.

In its annual assessment of the U.S. economy, the IMF says growth will hit 2.9 percent this year and 2.7 percent next year — significant increases from last year’s 2.3 percent expansion. However, after an initial boost from the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package, the IMF forecasts that growth will slow steadily in future years, dropping to 1.4 percent in 2023.

The report said that with the tax cuts and expected increases in spending on defense and domestic programs, the federal budget deficit as a percentage of the total economy will exceed 4.5 percent of gross domestic product by next year.

— Associated Press

LAWSUITS
Ky. sues Walgreens over opioid crisis

Kentucky’s attorney general on Thursday sued Walgreens Boots Alliance, accusing the company of playing a dual role in propagating an opioid epidemic in the state as both a pharmacy chain and wholesale drug distributor.

The lawsuit filed by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) was his sixth seeking to hold corporations such as drug manufacturers and distributors responsible for their roles in the drug abuse crisis.

The complaint, filed in state circuit court in Boone County, alleges that Walgreens filled massive opioid orders in unusually large sizes. The firm, which shipped drugs as a distributor, also is accused of failing to report suspicious orders to authorities.

Walgreens dispensed opioids at “such an alarming rate and volume that there could be no legitimate medical purpose associated to their use,” the complaint alleges. The lawsuit also alleges that because Walgreens allowed for the proliferation of dangerous opioids in Kentucky, the state’s citizens suffered from drug addiction, overdoses and deaths.

The lawsuit seeks damages and penalties as well as an injunction. Walgreens declined to comment.

— Reuters

Coming today

9:15 a.m.: Federal Reserve releases industrial production for May.