WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy, hit by a plunge in spending on cars and computers, grew at an annual rate of just 1.4 percent during the final three months of 2000, the weakest performance in more than five years.
The anemic performance of the gross domestic product -- the total output of goods and services produced within the United States -- was below even the scaled-down expectations of many private analysts. They were forecasting a growth rate of around 2.2 percent, matching the performance in the third quarter.
"The extent and the suddenness of the slowdown has caught everyone by surprise," said Oscar Gonzalez, economist with John Hancock Financial Services. "This isn't a crash, but certainly is a sudden jolt."
The weak showing in the fourth quarter, reported Wednesday by the Commerce Department, underscored how dramatically the economy had slowed since the second quarter of last year, when it grew by a breakneck 5.6 percent rate.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last week warned Congress that the economy has likely weakened further, saying growth in the current quarter is probably "very close to zero."
Greenspan did not rule out the threat of a recession, saying the country's first downturn in a decade could occur if consumers became so rattled that they stopped spending.
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