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US growth slows sharply


US growth slows sharply


Harsh weather, dampened consumer spending and energy companies struggling with low prices helped to put the brakes on US economic growth in the first quarter.

Data from the Commerce department showed GDP expanded at an only 0.2 percent annual rate.

The figure represents a big step down from the fourth quarter’s 2.2 percent and marked the weakest reading in a year. Many economists had predicted the economy expanding at a 1.0 percent rate.

Analysts estimate that unusually cold weather in February chopped off as much as half a percent.

The weather had an impact on construction while spending on non residential structures, which includes oil exploration and drilling tumbled at a 23.1 percent rate.

Growth in consumer spending which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity slowed to a 1.9 percent rate which was the slowest in a year and in marked contrast to the 4.4 percent pace in the fourth quarter.

There are signs the economy is pulling out of the soft patch but data suggests the rebound will lack the vigour of last year.

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