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Economic Report: U.S. GDP growth in fourth quarter raised slightly to 4.3%

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The numbers: The growth in the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter clocked in at an 4.3% annual pace, a touch higher than previous reported.

Gross domestic product was raised from the previous reading of 4.1% mostly because of somewhat higher exports and business investment, revised government figures show.

The economy appears to be speeding up again after slowing toward the end of the year following a record coronavirus outbreak. Economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal predict GDP will increase at a 4.9% clip in the spring and 7% in the summer.

GDP is the sum of all the goods and services produced by the economy and is a scorecard of sorts for how the U.S. is performing.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis updates the GDP report twice after its initial release as more timely information is obtained to give a fuller picture of the how the economy performed.

Read: U.S. economy speeds up in March – and it’s not about to slow down

What happened: The biggest change in the fourth-quarter GDP report was in business investment. Investment in inventories, intellectual property and residential housing were all a touch higher than previously reported.

Exports also rose a revised 22.3% vs. the prior 21.8% reading. And state and local spending wasn’t quite as weak as previously reported.

The increase in consumer spending — by far the biggest contributor to the GDP report — was lowered a tick to 2.3% from 2.4%.

Most other figures win the report were little changed.

The big picture: The economy is gathering speed again owing to a decline in coronavirus cases, rising vaccinations and warmer weather. A gargantuan $1.9 trillion federal stimulus will give the economy an additional shove forward.

The largest unknown is whether the coronavirus will continue to fade away.

Another potential thorn is rising inflation. The recovery has spawned a flood of prices increases in many key supplies, a problem exacerbated by growing shortages of key materials ranging from lumber and computer chips.

Read: Economists say inflation risks highest in two decades and could force Fed to raise interest rates in 2022

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.01%

and S&P 500
SPX,
-0.55%

were set to open lower in Thursday trades.

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