U.S. Economy Starts Year With a Whimper

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from The Wall Street Journal,

GDP Growth Stalls as Frigid Weather, Weak Exports Curtail Activity.

U.S. growth nearly stalled in the first three months of the year, fresh evidence that the economic expansion that began almost five years ago remains the weakest in modern history.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.1% in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It marked the second-worst quarterly performance since the recession ended in mid-2009.

The weak GDP reading came as Federal Reserve officials voted to continue withdrawing their support for the economy based on the expectation—shared by many private economists—that growth would rebound, as it already started doing as the weather improved. “Economic activity has picked up recently, after having slowed sharply during the winter in part because of adverse weather conditions,” the central bank said in its policy statement Wednesday.

Harsh weather likely slowed first-quarter business investment and discretionary consumer spending. It could have even blocked exports—which notched their sharpest decline since the recovery began—from reaching ports.

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