Economy grows at 2.2 percent in 1Q

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U.S. economic growth slowed in the first quarter as businesses cut back on investment and restocked shelves at a slower pace, but stronger demand for automobiles softened the blow.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.2 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said Friday in its advance estimate, moderating from the fourth quarter's 3 percent rate.

While that was below economists' expectations for a 2.5 percent pace, a surge in consumer spending took some of the sting from the report and growth was still stronger than analysts' predictions early in the quarter for an expansion below 1.5 percent, Reuters reported.

Although the details were mixed, the GDP report offered a somewhat better picture compared with the fourth quarter, when inventory building accounted for nearly two thirds of the economy's growth. In the first quarter, demand from consumers took up the slack.

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