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US Economy Advancing, but Less Than First Estimate

Trader Gregory Rowe on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, May 28, 2013.
Trader Gregory Rowe on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, May 28, 2013.
The U.S. economy grew modestly in the first months of the year, but at a slightly slower pace than first thought.

The government says the world's largest economy advanced 2.4 percent in the January-to-March period, down a tenth of a percentage point from its first estimate a month ago.

But the latest report shows U.S. consumers largely brushed off a 2 percent tax increase for most workers starting in January to pay for pensions for older Americans.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the American economy, and the government said it surged 3.4 percent in the first quarter, the fastest growth in the past two years.

But the report said the gain in consumer spending was offset by companies restocking their inventories at a slower pace and cutbacks in spending by national, state and local governments.

The U.S. has struggled to fully recover from the depths of its recession of a few years ago, the country's worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Analysts say the U.S. economy may slow in the April-to-June quarter, perhaps to two percent or less. The American economy is coping with cuts in national government spending that took effect in March, and the continuing economic weakness in Europe, a major trading partner for the U.S. But the economy could gain at a faster pace again in the latter half of the year.

Economic data in the country often seems conflicting. By U.S. standards, the jobless rate remains high at 7.5 percent, but its stock market indexes are near all-time highs and the country's moribund housing market has shown signs of improving.
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