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Economists optimistic on housing, consumers

WASHINGTON – Consumer spending is likely to pick up this year while government spending declines at a faster rate, according to a survey of business economists.

The economists predict that the U.S. economy will grow 2.4 percent this year and 3 percent next year. That’s unchanged from their forecast in February.

But they are more bullish on consumer spending and the housing market than they were three months ago. That partly reflects a more positive view on unemployment.

The survey was released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics.

$1.2 billion expansion planned for Bellevue

BELLEVUE – Developer Kemper Freeman plans a $1.2 billion expansion in Bellevue.

Kemper Development Co. announced plans Monday to add 2 million square feet of retail, office, hotel and entertainment space. Construction is scheduled to start in 2014 and be completed in 2016.

Kemper said he’s encouraged by 48 straight months of sales increases at properties that include Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place and Lincoln Square.

High court to consider whistleblower appeal

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court will decide if government whistleblower protection applies to workers at a privately held contractor or the subcontractor of a publicly held company.

The justices agreed Monday to hear appeals from Jackie Hosang Lawson and Jonathan M. Zang. The two of them complained of retaliation for whistleblower activities from the privately held parent company and subsidiary companies that run the Fidelity family of mutual funds.

Lawson resigned after complaining of harassment and Zang was dismissed, and both sued. A lower court refused to throw out their complaints, but that decision was overturned. The federal appeals court said only people who work for public companies are protected by the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

Wal-Mart must give bribery documents

WILMINGTON, Del. – A judge in Delaware ordered attorneys for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to turn over more information to shareholders seeking records on how the company responded to allegations of bribery involving its operations in Mexico.

The judge suggested Monday that Wal-Mart attorneys had taken a “persnickety and narrow” approach to turning over documents requested by attorneys for large pension funds trying to find out what, and when, company directors knew of the payments.

The shareholders have alleged that Wal-Mart officials breached their fiduciary duties by allowing and covering up the alleged payments, which spurred federal investigations in both the U.S. and Mexico.

China ices sheep meat over certification

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Hundreds of tons of frozen mutton, lamb and beef from New Zealand have been stranded on Chinese docks after China halted imports from the country due to a certification dispute.

China is New Zealand’s largest export market and consumer of sheep meat.

China has blocked all New Zealand beef and sheep meat that has arrived there in the past two or three weeks, said Dan Coup, trade and economic manager for the Meat Industry Association of New Zealand.

The meat in freezers at the docks is worth tens of millions of dollars. Because it is frozen, it will last months, Coup said.