Economic growth slows in first quarter

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The U.S. economy grew at a slower pace than forecast in the first quarter as consumer purchases cooled, home construction fell and government spending declined.

Gross domestic product rose at a 1.8 percent annual rate from January through March after a 3.1 percent pace in the last three months of 2010, the Commerce Department said today.

Economists projected 2 percent growth, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. Higher gasoline prices prompted Americans to limit spending after they ramped up purchases in the prior three months.

GDP estimates from 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg ranged from 0.5 percent to 3.5 percent. The first-quarter pace was the slowest since April through June 2010. For all of 2010, the world's largest economy expanded 2.9 percent, the most in five years, after shrinking 2.6 percent in 2009.

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