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US 4th Quarter growth cut to 2.4pc

Friday, February 28 14:47:50

The U.S. government slashed its estimate for fourth-quarter growth as consumer spending and exports were less robust than initially thought, suggesting some loss of momentum heading into 2014.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.4 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said today. That was down sharply from the 3.2 percent pace reported last month and the 4.1 percent logged in the third quarter.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected growth would be cut to a 2.5 percent pace.

It is not unusual for the government to make sharp revisions to GDP numbers, as it does not have complete data when it makes its initial estimates. In fact, the latest figures will be subject to revisions next month as more information is received.

The revision left GDP just above the economy's potential growth trend, which analysts put somewhere between a 2 percent and 2.3 percent pace. Even with the revision, the second-half growth pace was a stellar 3.3 percent and a jump from 1.8 percent in the first six months of the year.

Consumer spending accounted for a large chunk of the revision after retail sales in November and December came in weaker than assumed.

Consumer spending was cut to a 2.6 percent rate, still the fastest pace since the first quarter of 2012. It had previously been reported to have grown at a 3.3 percent pace.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, contributed 1.73 percentage points to GDP growth, down from the previously reported 2.26 percentage points. As a result, final domestic demand was lowered two-tenths of a percentage point to a 1.2 percent rate.

The loss of momentum appears to have spilled over into in the first quarter of 2014, with an unusually cold winter weighing on retail sales, home building and sales, hiring and industrial production.