European Commission sees the economy recovering faster than expected.

Nineteen countries in the eurozone are expected to grow 4.8 percent in 2021, half a percentage point more than previously forecast.

Shoppers in Amsterdam last month. The European Commission said consumer spending would quicken as people get back to work, though the spread of new variants remains a risk.Credit…Remko De Waal/EPA, via Shutterstock

The European Commission said Wednesday that successful vaccination drives and government stimulus will allow the eurozone economy to make up the ground lost because of the pandemic by the end of the year, instead of early next year as previously forecast.

The commission, the European Union’s administrative arm, said in its official summer forecast that the 19 countries in the eurozone will grow 4.8 percent in 2021, half a percentage point more than previously forecast.

The European Union, which includes the eurozone plus eight additional countries, will also grow 4.8 percent this year, compared with an earlier forecast of 4.2 percent, the commission said.

“The European economy is making a strong comeback with all the right pieces falling into place,” Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president of the commission, said in a statement.

Consumer spending will pick up as people get back to work, while businesses will invest in expansion, the commission said, though it warned that the spread of new variants remains a risk.

Annual inflation in 2021 will average 1.9 percent in the eurozone, the commission forecast, because of strong demand and shortages of some goods. For most of 2019 and 2020, inflation in the eurozone was below 1 percent.

If the forecast is accurate, inflation will approach the European Central Bank’s official target. But the central bank is unlikely to begin withdrawing stimulus to the eurozone economy until there is more evidence that the bloc has fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic.

“We will have to keep a close eye on rising inflation, which is due not least to stronger domestic and foreign demand,” Mr. Dombrovskis said.

USA Today is one of the most-read news outlets in the country.Credit…Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

When USA Today was introduced nearly 40 years ago, its short articles, copious charts and detailed weather coverage were disdained by the staid newspaper industry, which nonetheless quickly found itself copying many of the upstart’s novel features.

But on Wednesday, USA Today announced it was playing catch-up with its contemporaries, becoming the final major national daily to require readers to pay to read news online.

In a note to readers published Wednesday online and in the print edition, two executives at Gannett, the newspaper chain that owns USA Today, laid out their pitch.

“This is a big change; our digital news has always been free,” wrote Maribel Perez Wadsworth, USA Today’s publisher and the director of news across Gannett, and Nicole Carroll, the editor in chief of USA Today. “But USA Today was founded on boldness. Your subscription is an investment in quality journalism that’s worth paying for, journalism that strengthens our communities and our nation.”

USA Today’s shift to a digital subscription model, which comes after the rest of Gannett’s roughly 250 daily newspapers already made that change, signals the definitive end of an era when newspapers relied primarily on advertisements in its print edition for revenue. As readers have flocked to smartphones, laptops and tablets, causing print readership and the overall value of advertising to decline, newspapers’ most important revenue stream increasingly consists of charging digital readers.

The announcement could prove just the beginning of USA Today’s transition into a subscription company, Mayur Gupta, Gannett’s chief marketing and strategy officer, said in an interview, pointing to USA Today-branded destinations for sports betting and games. It might also make sense in the future for Gannett to offer subscriptions that bundle USA Today and a local newspaper, he said.

“It’s inevitable that at some point we will create a much stronger value proposition from stitching it all together,” said Mr. Gupta, a former executive at the streaming giant Spotify.

USA Today’s digital destinations (not all Gannet outlets, as previously reported here) routinely receive around 90 million unique visitors per month, the company said. That puts it on par with rivals with paywalls such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, according to Comscore, a media measurement company. USA Today has among the highest weekday print circulations in the country. It does not publish print editions on weekends.

The paywall will extend to USA Today’s entire audience. But it will not cover all stories. Breaking news, particularly of a public service nature, will remain free, Ms. Perez Wadsworth and Ms. Carroll said. The money from the paywall will help fund an already beefed-up investigations unit and visual journalism, they said.

Maribel Perez Wadsworth, the publisher of USA Today, said the newspaper’s national report was informed by a network of local papers across the country.Credit…USA Today

In an interview, Ms. Perez Wadsworth promoted the strengths of the so-called USA Today Network, which includes the local papers published by Gannett in 46 states such as The Arizona Republic and The Detroit Free Press.

“The fact that we have the deep roots, expertise and trust in the local markets is an enormous strength, for those brands and for USA Today, because our national report is informed by that expert local knowledge,” she said.

There will be three subscriptions for sale, all with lower monthly prices for the first three months that then graduate to higher ones: a digital-only tier, with an entry price of $4.99 per month rising to $9.99 per month; a digital-only tier without ads, which will start at $7.99 and rise to $12.99; and a home-delivery subscription that will include complete digital access, with a teaser rate of $9.99 rising to $29.25.

The announcement on Wednesday followed a pilot over the past few months in which 25 percent to 50 percent of USA Today’s digital visitors were confronted with a paywall. Gannett executives learned that subscribers were spending at least 20 percent more time than anonymous users, Mr. Gupta said.

Ms. Perez Wadsworth said she was encouraged by the results of the pilot. “When we focus on what’s unique and exclusive to us,” she said, “our readers do make choices to subscribe.”

Alain Delaqueriere contributed research







White House Says Combatting Ransomware Attacks Is a ‘Priority’

Last week, a number of small- and medium-sized businesses were hit by a major cyberattack, causing other companies around the world to fear the same. The Biden administration said it’s working to prevent further cyberattacks.

The increase in ransomware attacks far predated the president taking office, and it is something that from Day 1, he has made a priority and has asked his team to focus on where we can have an impact, how we can better work with the private sector, and what we can do across the federal government to help address and reduce ransomware attacks on our critical infrastructure, but also on a range of entities in the United States. And we are continuing to up our partnership with the private sector, which is a key part of best practices in ensuring we are reducing the impact of the, I should say, the vulnerability of private-sector entities. But there is more that can be done, and it warrants and requires an interagency process and discussion in order to move those policies forward. The attack over the weekend underscores the need for companies and government agencies, as well, to focus on improving cybersecurity. And we’ve talked a bit in the past about the importance of private-sector entities hardening their own cybersecurity, putting in place best practices that have been recommended by the federal government for some time.

Last week, a number of small- and medium-sized businesses were hit by a major cyberattack, causing other companies around the world to fear the same. The Biden administration said it’s working to prevent further cyberattacks.

Between 800 and 1,500 businesses around the world were compromised or affected by a cyberattack on Friday that security experts said could be the largest attack in history using ransomware, in which hackers shut down systems until a ransom is paid.

“This is the worst ransomware incident to date, but if we don’t take action, the worst is yet to come,” said Kyle Hanslovan, the chief executive of the cybersecurity firm Huntress Labs.

Hackers compromised Kaseya, a Miami-based software maker that provides technology services to tens of thousands of organizations around the world. Many of its customers are so-called managed service providers, which in turn provide security and tech support to other companies and collectively reach millions of businesses.

“It totally sucks,” Fred Voccola, Kaseya’s chief executive, said in a video posted on YouTube early Tuesday, addressing the company’s customers. “If I was you, I’d be very, very frustrated, and you should be.”

He said Kaseya was working with the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the White House to address the issue.

About 50 of Kaseya’s direct customers were compromised when it was breached, Mr. Voccola said, including dozens of managed service providers.

A Russian-based cybercriminal organization known as REvil claimed responsibility on Sunday for the attack, boasting about it on its site — called “Happy Blog” — on the dark web. Some victims were being asked for $5 million in ransom, Huntress Labs said.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst for the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, said REvil was also asking for $45,000 in cryptocurrency for each computer system a victim wanted restored.

REvil also said it would publish a tool that would allow all infected companies to recover their data if it were paid $70 million in Bitcoin.

“If you are interested in such a deal, contact us,” the group wrote, adding that it had provided a way for victims to contact the organization.

Jack Cable, a security researcher for Krebs Stamos Group, said that he had reached out to REvil over the weekend and that the group said it was willing to negotiate. It offered to slash the price for the tool to $50 million in Bitcoin, he said.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said during a news conference on Tuesday that “we advise against companies paying ransomware, given that it incentivizes bad actors to repeat this behavior.”

President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia arriving for their first meeting in Geneva last month.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Ms. Psaki said American national security officials had been in touch with Russian government officials over the attack. When President Biden met with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Geneva last month, he demanded that Russia rein in ransomware attacks, which have become increasingly common in recent months. The F.B.I. said REvil was behind the hacking of the world’s largest meat processor, JBS, in May.

“If the Russian government cannot or will not take action against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action, or reserve the right to take action, on our own,” Ms. Psaki said.

The Kaseya cyberattack has had cascading effects around the globe, touching companies in more than a dozen countries, including the United States, Germany, Australia and Brazil. In Sweden, the grocery retailer Coop was forced to close more than 800 stores Saturday, and each location had to be visited to fix the problems caused by the hack. A Swedish railway and a pharmacy chain were also affected, security researchers said.

Mr. Voccola said such an attack was bound to happen.

“Even the best defenses in the world get scored upon,” he said.

A common refrain he has heard from government officials and security experts, he said, was that when it comes to cyberattacks, “it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

The headquarters of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, which has 98 billion barrels of reserves, about 6 percent of the world total.Credit…Satish Kumar/Reuters

The chief roadblock to a deal by OPEC Plus over oil production is a fight between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia over whether to raise output limits.

The dispute may signal a fundamental realignment of the nations in the gulf, Stanley Reed reports for The New York Times. The Emirates’ ambitions for a more diverse economy, seeded with Western investment, are prompting it to step more forcefully outside Saudi Arabia’s shadow.

Led by Dubai with its collection of futuristic skyscrapers and alluring shopping malls, the Emirates has made itself into a business, financial and tourism hub, although the pandemic has clearly been a setback.

The real power in the Emirates, though, lies with Abu Dhabi, which produces the oil that bankrolls the place. Abu Dhabi has 98 billion barrels of reserves, about 6 percent of the world total.

It has financial muscle that has given the Emirates a chance to stand apart from other countries in the region and take some views that might seem unusual. In the view of Abu Dhabi’s leadership, the environmental pressures that are pushing multinational oil companies to dial back investment in new wells may work out in favor of the oil-rich emirate, which does not have to deal with such concerns at home.

In particular, Emirates is eager to pump — and sell — more oil at today’s higher prices. And it has big ambitions that have raised eyebrows in Saudi Arabia, the longtime de facto leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The first signs of trouble appeared last summer when the Emirates substantially exceeded the amount it was allowed to pump, but matters came out in the open on Thursday when it demanded a substantial recalculation of his country’s quota if he was to go along with a Saudi plan to extend the overall production agreement when it expires after April.

Leave a Reply