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The U.S. economy grew at a faster pace than expected in the first quarter and posted its best growth to start a year in six years.

First-quarter GDP expanded by 3.2% in the first quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said in its initial read of the economy for that period. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected the U.S. economy increased by 2.5% in the first quarter. It was the first time since 2013 that first-quarter GDP topped 3%.

Exports rose 3.7% in the first quarter, while imports decreased by 3.7%. Economic growth also got a lift from strong investments in intellectual property products. Those investments expanded by 8.6%.

“The upside beat was helped by net trade (exports jumped while imports contracted sharply) and inventories which combined contributed almost 170 bps of the rise,” wrote Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “Personal spending though, the biggest component was up just 1.2%, two tenths more than expected as an increase in spending on services and nondurable goods offset a decline in spending on durable goods.”

Disposable personal income increased by 3%, while prices increased by 1.3% when excluding food and energy. Overall prices climbed by 0.8% in the first quarter.

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US breaks all-time record for dividends as investor payouts surge

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Global dividends reached a first-quarter record of $263.3 billion, rising 7.8% despite concerns about the world economy, according to new research Monday.

The Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index said that U.S. dividends totaled a record $122.5 billion during the period, up 8.3%. Underlying U.S. growth, where it is adjusted for special dividends and changes in currency, saw a climb of 9.6%. Almost 90% of American companies featured in the index raised dividends, the highest increases coming from the banking sector.

Janus Henderson expects a record $1.43 trillion in dividend payments this year, up 4.2% in headline terms, led by North America, where growth is the fastest worldwide on an underlying basis.

A dividend is a portion of a company’s earnings that are paid out as a reward to shareholders. Janus Henderson analyzes dividends paid by the 1,200 largest firms by market capitalization and the research began in 2009.

UK lagging

Europe has seen relatively few dividends paid out in the first quarter, with headline growth of 9.2% boosted by special dividends while underlying growth of 5.3% was in line with the 2018 performance. The U.K. lagged the global average with 4.4% underlying growth.

The Asia-Pacific region has demonstrated the strongest dividend growth since 2009, and the year-on-year headline growth of 14.7% broke the record for first-quarter payouts.

Head of Global Equity Income Ben Lofthouse commented in the research that this “reflects a continuation of the robust growth witnessed in 2018, rather than necessarily setting the tone for another above trend year in 2019.”

“Market expectations for corporate earnings have moderated in recent months as global economic momentum has slowed and forecasts may yet come down a bit further,” he added.

“Dividends are a lagging indicator of company health, so a reduction in their rate of increase is a normal consequence of slower earnings growth. Nevertheless, we do not yet feel the need to make changes to our dividend forecast for 2019.”

Investors can look forward to dividend growth of around 4% to 5% in 2019 and another record year for dividend payments, the report suggested.

Change in corporate culture for Japan?

The report specifically cited Japan as having exceeded the global average for the past five years as Japanese companies adapt to dividend culture.

Lofthouse told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Monday that “consistent dividend growth and the indulgence of external shareholders” could be indicating “real change in corporate culture” for Japan.

Emerging markets showed weaker growth of 2.2%, which the report attributed to these economies being the first to feel the effects of tighter U.S. monetary policy and global trade fears.

Pharmaceutical stocks offered the largest payouts, contributing $1 for every $8 distributed globally, with the sector delivering an all-time record if $30.1 billion despite its underlying growth rate lagging the global average.

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Ukraine President Zelenskiy dissolves parliament

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on during his inauguration ceremony at the parliament in Kiev on May 20, 2019.

GENYA SAVILOV | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office on Monday and immediately announced he was dissolving parliament and calling a snap election, aiming to win seats in a legislature still dominated by loyalists of his predecessor.

Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won the presidency by a landslide last month but his new party has no representation in parliament, making it expedient for him to call a snap poll while his popularity remains high.

He said his first task was to achieve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where a five-year-old conflict with Russian-backed separatists has killed 13,000 people. He added that dialogue with Russia could only happen after the return of Ukrainian territory and prisoners of war.

Working with parliament will be crucial to his ability to meet the expectations of his voters and also pass reforms needed to keep foreign aid flowing.

Zelenskiy called on lawmakers to use the two months until the snap election to pass a law that would strip them of immunity from prosecution and another law that bans officials from illegally enriching themselves.

“You will have two months for this. Do it and you will deserve medals,” Zelenskiy said after being sworn in. “I dissolve the Rada (parliament) of the eighth convocation.”

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Swedish prosecutor requests Assange arrest over rape allegation

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WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange

Carl Court | Getty Images

The Swedish prosecutor heading an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday filed a request for his arrest, the Prosecution Authority said. The warrant, if granted, would be the first step in a process to have Assange extradited from Britain, where he is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail.

Sweden reopened an investigation into the rape allegation, first made in 2010, on May 13.

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