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Economy Grew At 2.2 Percent Rate In First Quarter

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter of the year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

That's down from the 3 percent pace in fourth-quarter 2011, but is still better than the 1.7 percent growth for all of last year.

The first-quarter figure will be revised twice, in each of the next two months.

We'll have more about the report shortly.

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Update at 8:47 a.m. ET. Behind The Numbers:

The Wall Street Journal says growth slowed in part because "government spending fell and a build up in inventories eased.." Bloomberg News says a "smaller contribution from inventories overshadowed the biggest gain in consumer spending in more than a year."

According to the bureau, "real personal consumption expenditures increased 2.9 percent in the first quarter." Consumers purchase about 70 percent of all goods and services produced by businesses.

Update at 8:44 a.m. ET. Some Numbers.

The quarter-by-quarter growth (at annual rates) over the past year:

— First-quarter 2011: 0.4 percent.

— Second-quarter 2011: 1.3 percent.

— Third-quarter 2011: 1.8 percent.

— Fourth-quarter 2011: 3 percent.

— First-quarter 2012: 2.2 percent.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. "Modest, At Best:"

Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at the private Conference Board, says in an email to reporters that "following a strong performance at the end of 2011, this most recent growth rate may be called modest, at best." She sees, though, "signs of strengthening in the underlying dynamics of the economy" — including steady consumer spending and hints of an improving housing market.

Update at 8:36 a.m. ET. A Bit Below Expectations:

The consensus forecast among economists was for growth at a 2.5 percent pace. But, as we said, the GDP report will be revised twice in coming months.



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