US economic growth at 1.7% in second quarter

US shoppers The data suggests that US consumer spending is picking up, albeit slowly

The US economy grew at an annualised pace of 1.7% in the second quarter of the year, the Commerce Department has said.

That was a faster pace than expected by economists.

It was also up from the growth rate for the first three months of 2013, which was revised lower to 1.1% from 1.8%.

A slowdown was widely expected due to the impact of federal spending cuts, but also from the continuing weakness in the global economy.

In March, $85bn (£56bn) of public spending was cut as a result of a deal between Democrat and Republican politicians.

But the Commerce Department said that the federal government cut spending by only 1.5% in the April-to-June period, compared with a sharp drop of 8.4% in the first quarter.

Analysis

This report on the US economy is, as one New York economist put it, "messy".

Yes, the second-quarter growth rate was better than expected, but that was offset by a downward revision for the first three months of the year.

The 1.7% annualised figure (which means what you would have got if the economy continued growing at the same rate for a whole year) is still below the long-term trend.

It looks a bit better if we focus on the private sector, as the federal government reduced spending by (an annualised) 0.4%. Will there be more of that?

The government is cutting back due to the "sequester", the across-the-board cuts following a failure to agree a spending plan with Congress. Some think the worst of that may be over. But others have their doubts.

What we can say is that the US economy continues to recover from a very nasty recession, but still not all that strongly.

The US economy grew by 0.4% in the second quarter compared with the previous three months. That compares to 0.6% growth in the UK in the same period.

The eurozone's GDP figures are released on 14 August. The 18-member region shrank 0.2% in the first quarter - the sixth quarter of decline in a row.

'Recovery'

"We have an upside surprise in the GDP, which speaks volumes for the job recovery that we're putting together," said Andre Bakhos, a market analyst at Lek Securities in New York.

"The recovery in the economy is starting to take root. This will be an interesting development given the fact that we'll have a Fed announcement today."

The Federal Reserve meets on Wednesday to make its latest statement on its massive bond-buying programme to stimulate the economy.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of US GDP. Official figures showed that consumers spent less in the second quarter than in the first, with personal consumption expenditure up 1.8%, compared with 2.3% previously.

Revisions

As well as the last set of quarterly figures, the Commerce Department also revised growth figures going back several decades.

It said the US economy now grew by 2.8% in 2012, up from its previous estimate of 2.2%. This may help to explain why growth appeared weak last year but hiring continued to improve.

The government also said that the economy contracted by 4.3% during the recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, better than the previous estimate of a 4.7% drop.

The economy expanded by 8.2% from the middle of 2009 through to the end of last year, which was more than the 7.6% previously suggested.

The latest figures showed a pick up in both imports and exports. Exports rose 5.4% in the second quarter, compared with a drop of 1.3% in the first quarter. Imports jumped 9.5%, compared with an increase of 0.6% in the previous quarter.

More on This Story

US Economy

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Leonardo da Vinci Self-PortraitMagical masterpiece

    The Leonardo hidden from Hitler in case it gave him special powers


  • Woman smelling pot of herbsWake up

    Is eating sage better for your alertness than coffee?


  • George Foreman and Muhammad AliThe Rumble

    Was this the most compelling sporting event last century? BBC Sport


  • GunGun dilemma

    What if you had a killer product on your hands - literally?


From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • Francis Rossi, co-founder of band Status QuoHARDtalk Watch

    Status Quo's Francis Rossi explains how alcohol led him to take cocaine

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.