Economic Growth Weakens to 3-Year Low of 0.7 Percent

The U.S. economy turned in the weakest performance in three years in the January-March quarter as consumers sharply slowed their spending. The result repeats a pattern that has characterized the recovery: lackluster beginnings to the year.

The gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, grew by just 0.7 percent in the first quarter following a gain of 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The slowdown primarily reflected slower consumer spending, which grew by just 0.3 percent after a 3.5 percent gain in the fourth quarter. It was the poorest showing in more than seven years. Analysts blame in part the unusually warm winter, which meant less spending on utility bills.

Economists believe the slowdown will be temporary. They forecast GDP growth will rebound to 3 percent or better in the current quarter.

Averaging the two quarters, they forecast growth of around 2

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