U.S. GDP Advances 2.6% in Second Quarter

By Jeffrey Sparshott and Eric Morath Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. economic growth picked up in the second quarter of the year.

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Gross domestic product, a broad measure of goods and services produced in the U.S., rose at a 2.6% annual rate in the April to June period, the Commerce Department said Friday. Figures are adjusted for inflation and seasonality.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected an increase of 2.7%.

The second-quarter advance is a welcome rebound after a lackluster start to the year, when GDP grew at only 1.2% pace. It's less clear if stronger growth is a sign of momentum or simply repeating a familiar pattern of weak winters followed by a stronger spring and summer.

The U.S. emerged from the last recession in mid-2009. Eight years later, the country has entered the third-longest but also the slowest expansion since World War II, with GDP growth averaging a little over 2%. By comparison, growth averaged 3.6% during a 10-year span in the 1990s and 4.9% during a nearly nine-year stretch in the 1960s, the only two expansions with longer durations.

President Donald Trump, who took office in late January, has pledged to return the nation to the above-3% growth.

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Details within Friday's report were generally positive.

Both consumers and businesses helped propel growth in the second quarter.

Household outlays rose at a 2.8% pace, an improvement from the first quarter's 1.9%. Consumers stepped up spending on both goods and services, possibly reflecting a broadly positive outlook since the election. The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence in July rose to the second-highest level in 16 years.

Businesses also have been upbeat. A measure of corporate spending on projects, nonresidential fixed investment, climbed at a 5.2% pace. While that was down from the first quarter's 7.2%, it's still one of the best readings since 2014.

In a sign of an improving global economy, U.S. exports expanded faster than imports. That made trade a small--0.18 percentage point--contributer to overall growth.

Government outlays rose, led by a surge in federal defense spending. State and local governments cut back.

Spending on home building and improvements was the biggest drag in the second quarter. Residential fixed investment dropped at a 6.8% pace, the sharpest decline since 2010.

Businesses, meanwhile, didn't restock their shelves and warehouses in the second quarter. A small decline in inventories shaved 0.02 percentage point off of the headline GDP number.

Inflation eased. The price index for personal consumption expenditures--the Fed's preferred inflation gauge--rose at a rate of 0.3% in the second quarter. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, increased 0.9%.

The Commerce Department's release on GDP can be found at: http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm

Write to Jeffrey Sparshott at jeffrey.sparshott@wsj.com and Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 28, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)