US economic growth slows as GDP estimate disappoints economists

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The US economy grew at a sluggish 2.5% on an annual rate between April and June according to the latest official measure of the country's economic health.

The third and final estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) from the Department of Commerce was unchanged from its last. But it was below economists' forecasts, which had been predicting a slight pickup in the pace of growth.

In the January-March quarter, GDP rose by 1.1% and while the latest figure represents a marked improvement it is still weak by historic standards. Economic expansion following the 2008 recession has been the weakest of the post-second world war era.

The latest GDP figures came as weekly jobless claims fell to lows unseen since June 2007. For the week ended 20 September, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits for the first time fell to 305,000, down from 309,000 the week before. Economists were expecting a rise to 325,000. The number brought the four-week moving average down to 308,000, the lowest level in more than six years.

The latest figures come as Treasury secretary Jack Lew warns of potentially devastating consequences from a fight in Washington over raising the US's debt ceiling. On Wednesday Lew warned Congress for the third time that the government might not be able to pay its bills after 17 October unless an agreement is reached.

The US hit its statutory borrowing limit of about $16.7tn on 19 May and has been using "extraordinary measures" to stretch the budget. But Lew has warned those measures will run out next month and the Treasury will be unable to meet close to a third of the $80m worth of payments it makes each month.

"Any delay in raising the debt ceiling would have dire economic consequences," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, testifying on Capitol Hill this week. "Consumer, business and investor confidence would be hit hard, putting stock, bond and other financial markets into turmoil."

Powered by article was written by Dominic Rushe in New York, for on Thursday 26th September 2013 16.51 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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