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Economy grew 4.6% in 2nd quarter, stronger than earlier estimated

The U.S. economy grew at a 4.6% annual rate this spring, rebounding more strongly than initially estimated from a weather-related winter contraction, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The growth rate for the April-through-June period was revised up from a 4.2% estimate in August in the government’s final revision of the data.

The new figure showed the economy expanded in the second quarter at its fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2011 and topped a 4% annual growth rate for just the third time since the Great Recession ended five years ago.

The economy was boosted by increases in exports and private inventory investment in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said.

Growth also was spurred by consumers and businesses catching up for activity lost in the first three months of the year, when severe weather hit much of the country.

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The economy shrank at a 2.1% annual rate in the first quarter, the first contraction in three years.

“Economic growth remains on a sound footing, but the quarter’s weather-driven rebound from an abnormally low first quarter overstates the extent of this growth,” said Doug Handler, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

The third and final revision to the second-quarter growth figure was in line with analyst expectations.

Even with the strong rebound, the first-quarter troubles mean the economy has grown just 2.5% in the first half of the year. That tepid pace is roughly in line with the growth since the recession ended in June 2009.

Economists are expecting the growth rate to slow in the second half of the year. Handler forecasts the economy will expand at a 3% to 3.5% annual rate.

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