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Economy loses speed in spring; more weakness ahead

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By Jeannine Aversa

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's economic growth tailed off sharply in the spring and probably isn't faring any better now.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that gross domestic product — the broadest measure of the economy's health — expanded at a feeble 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-to-June quarter.

The new reading is a notch higher than the 1.6 percent growth rate the government estimated a month ago. But it marks a sharp slowdown from a 3.7 percent growth rate logged in the first quarter. And, the new figure doesn't change the big picture: The economy has been losing momentum since the end of last year.

Many think the economy grew at around the same anemic pace, or slightly worse, during the July-to-September quarter. Little improvement is expected in the final quarter of this year. That's why unemployment — now at 9.6 percent — is expected to stay high or even rise in the coming months.

Americans just aren't spending at a robust pace to bulk up companies' sales and make them confident enough to beef up hiring. Consumers and businesses, battered by the worst recession since the 1930s, are clinging to their cautious ways.


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