In this Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, photo, construction personnel work on a building project just south of Chicago's Loop. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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U.S. economic growth slowed sharply in the fourth quarter as a plunge in shipments of soybeans weighed on exports, but steady consumer spending and rising business investment pointed to sustained strength in domestic demand. Gross domestic product increased at a 1.9 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said Friday in its first estimate of fourth-quarter GDP. The economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter. Excluding soybeans, GDP increased at about a 2.7 percent rate in both the third and fourth quarters, according to analysts. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP rising at a 2.2 percent rate in the fourth quarter.In the fourth quarter, exports fell at a 4.3 percent rate, reversing the 10 percent increase notched in the third quarter.Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a 2.5 percent rate in the fourth quarter.Business investment pushed higher, with spending on equipment increasing at a 3.1 percent rate, the first increase in over a year.Investment in nonresidential structures, however, fell at a 5.0 percent pace in the fourth quarter after rising at a 12.0 percent rate in the prior period.
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