WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy, helped by resilient consumers and an improving trade performance, posted stronger-than-expected growth in the first three months of this year, a period when it had been feared the country could slip into recession.
The Commerce Department said Friday that the gross domestic product -- the country's total output of goods and services -- advanced at an annual rate of 2 percent from January through March.
Not only did the GDP remain in positive territory, but the 2 percent pace was double the 1 percent growth rate of the final three months of 2000 and also double what many analysts had been expecting for the first quarter.
The positive GDP report brought smiles to the Bush administration, which had been concerned that the economy could dip into recession in President Bush's first months in office.
"It is a wonderful, sunny day here in Washington and our 2 percent real growth rate in the first quarter is nothing but good news compared to what most people expected," Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told reporters.
Stock prices were rising Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 56 points at late morning.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan had worried earlier this year that economic growth might have stalled out altogether, ending the country's record 10-year-long economic expansion. The Fed in January began cutting interest rates aggressively in an effort to ward off a downturn.
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