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Fourth-Quarter GDP Growth Bumped Up to 2.6%

A third look at gross domestic product (GDP) shows the nation’s economy grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to the third.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the increase in real GDP last quarter mostly reflected positive contributions from consumer spending, exports, and nonresidential fixed investment. Those gains were partly offset by drags in federal government spending and expenditures on housing.

The latest growth estimate was an improvement over BEA’s second report, which suggested 2.4 percent annualized growth, but well below the 3.2 percent expansion observed in the first advance estimate. It was also a slowdown from third-quarter growth, which was clocked at a rate of 4.1 percent.

“With this third estimate for the fourth quarter, the general picture of economic growth remains largely the same,” BEA said in its report.

With 2014 off to a discouraging start—thanks in no small part to severe icy weather smothering consumers’ desires to get out and spend—analysts are predicting much slower first-quarter results. The latest forecasts from analysts at both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac call for 2.0 percent GDP growth in Q1; the picture looks a little brighter by the end of the year, with Fannie Mae predicting expansion at a rate of 3.0 percent and Freddie Mac projecting growth at 3.3 percent.

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