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US economy grows at 1.7% rate in 2nd quarter

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy grew at a tepid 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, suggesting growth will stay weak in the second half of the year.

Slightly stronger consumer spending and greater exports were the main reasons the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that growth was better than its initial estimate of 1.5 percent. Still, growth has slowed from the 2-percent annual rate in the January-March quarter and the 4.1-percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Economists expect only modest improvement in the second half of the year. Most believe the economy will keep growing, but at a subpar rate of around 2 percent.

“The economy was sluggish in the second quarter and the slight upward revision ... does nothing to change that picture,” said John Ryding, an economist at RDQ Economics, in a note to clients.

A weak economy and high unemployment could hurt President Barack Obama re-election chances in November and bolster Republican challenger Mitt Romney's campaign. Republicans are in Tampa, Florida, this week to formally nominate Romney and have pointed to the dismal growth in making the case to elect their candidate.

The report was the government's second look at gross domestic product for the second quarter. GDP measures the country's total output of goods and services, from the purchase of restaurant meals to construction of highways and bridges. A third and final estimate of second-quarter growth will be released next month.

Growth at or below 2 percent is not enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 8.3 percent in July. Most expect the unemployment rate to stay above 8 percent for the rest of this year.

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In this April 4 file photo, a worker at the Ford Stamping Plant moves a stack of Lincoln MKS body sides in Chicago Heights, Illinois. The U.S. economy grew at a 1.7-percent annual rate in the April-June 2012 quarter, boosted by slightly stronger consumer spending and greater imports. (AP)



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