First-Quarter GDP Revised Higher; Jobless Claims Edge Up

Trade deficit acts as less of a drag on economy, and business spending comes in strong.

The U.S. economy grew at a faster pace than originally estimated in the first quarter, with the nation's gross domestic product expanding at a 5.6% clip, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The revised reading was higher than the 5.3% growth reported a month ago, and matched what economists were expecting.

The stronger GDP figure reflects an improvement in the country's trade deficit, which acted as less of a drag than previously estimated. Businesses ramped up spending on equipment and software at a 14.8 percent pace, up from a 5 percent growth rate in the prior quarter, while corporate profits continued to grow briskly. One measure of after-tax profits in the GDP report showed profits up 13.8 percent in the first quarter, the second consecutive quarter of such strong growth.

The trade picture improved as imports didn't grow as much as previously estimated. That meant the trade deficit shaved only 0.24 percentage point from GDP, compared with a 0.55 percentage-point reduction calculated a month ago.

Gross domestic product measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States and is considered the best barometer of the country's economic fitness.

Meanwhile, the labor department said new claims for unemployment benefits last week rose slightly more than expected, increasing by 4,000 to 313,000.

Economists predict that economic growth in the April-to-June quarter probably slowed to a pace of around 2.5 percent to 3 percent. High energy prices and a more moderate housing market will play roles in the expected slowdown in overall economic activity.

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