US GROWTH FOR QUARTER TO BE REVISED UPWARD

US GROWTH FOR QUARTER TO BE REVISED UPWARD

U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter last year probably will be revised higher by 1 percentage point to reflect a healthy 5.2 percent expansion, analysts said Wednesday.

That was the average estimate from 10 economists surveyed by Knight-Ridder

Financial News, with forecasts ranging from 4.7 percent to 5.8 percent.Previously, the Commerce Department said gross national product in Sept.- Dec. increased 4.2 percent, with the price deflator at 2.7 percent. Economists expect little change in that inflation measure when Commerce releases its second estimate of fourth-quarter GNP at 0830 EST Thursday.

Last quarter's improved growth was attributed to an improved U.S. picture, stronger consumption and heavier inventories, the analysts said. But there was less agreement on what that boded for economic growth early this year.

It's all inventories and trade, said William Sullivan of Dean Witter Reynolds. But as inventories rise, so does the level of inventory accumulation that will have to be worked off, draining economic activity early this year, Mr. Sullivan said.

As a result, many analysts expect economic growth of below 2 percent this quarter.

Merrill Lynch senior economist Ward McCarthy said his forecast of a stronger 5 percent expansion pace was due to upward revisions in retail sales. Data depicting the rise ininventories and the narrower trade deficit, along with more shipments of goods abroad, pointed to faster growth in the fourth quarter, Mr. McCarthy said.

Stephen Slifer of Shearson Lehman Hutton predicted GNP growth would be boosted 0.8 percent because of the improved trade scenario, while the higher inventories would add 0.6 percent to growth and consumption would add 0.4 percent.