Consumer Spending Boosts GDP 3.2 Percent

Consumer Spending Boosts GDP 3.2 Percent

The economy grew at a slightly smaller-than-expected 3.2 percent pace during the first quarter as consumers stepped up spending and businesses rebuilt inventories, the Commerce Department said.

The growth in gross domestic product was slightly below economists’ consensus estimate of 3.5 percent but marked the third straight quarter of growth and coincided with a slew of corporate earnings reports indicating higher sales and cautious optimism about continued economic recovery.

During the first quarter, consumer spending – which accounts for 70 percent of GDP – increased at a 3.6 percent rate, compared with 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter.

Consumer spending is the primary fuel for U.S. containerized imports from Asia, which last year accounted for 75 percent of the 14.5 million units in total U.S. seaborne imports of containers.

GDP grew at a 5.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter, when businesses slowed their drawdown of inventories, causing manufacturers to raise production. Inventories contributed 1.57 percentage points to GDP in the first quarter, less than half the rate of last year’s fourth quarter.

In addition to inventory adjustment during the first quarter, exports decelerated, residential housing turned down and business investment in equipment and software slowed.

Exports of goods added 0.53 percent to the percentage change in latest quarter’s GDP, compared with 2.26 percent in the last three months of 2009.

Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com.