WASHINGTON – The U.S. economy grew a bit faster than previously estimated in the second quarter, recording its quickest pace in more than two years, but the momentum probably slowed in the third quarter as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma temporarily curbed activity.
Gross domestic product increased at a 3.1 percent annual rate in the April-June period, the Commerce Department said in its third estimate on Thursday. The upward revision from the 3.0 percent pace of growth reported last month reflected an increase in inventory investment.
Growth last quarter was the fastest since the first quarter of 2015 and followed a 1.2 percent pace of growth in the January-March period. Economists had expected that second-quarter GDP growth would be unrevised at a 3.0 percent rate.
Harvey, which struck Texas, has been blamed for much of the decline in retail sales, industrial production, homebuilding and home sales in August. Further weakness is anticipated in September after Irma slammed into Florida early this month.
Rebuilding is, however, expected to boost growth in the fourth quarter and in early 2018. Growth estimates for the July-September period are just above a 2.2 percent pace.
With GDP accelerating in the second quarter, the economy grew 2.1 percent in the first half of 2017. Still, economists believe growth this year will not breach President Donald Trump’s ambitious 3.0 percent target.
Trump on Wednesday proposed the biggest U.S. tax overhaul in three decades, including lowering the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent and implementing a new 25 percent tax rate for pass-through businesses such as partnerships to boost the economy.
But the plan gave few details on how the tax cuts would be paid for without increasing the budget deficit and national debt.
Growth in consumer spending, which makes up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, was unrevised at a 3.3 percent rate in the second quarter as an increase in spending on services was offset by a downward revision to durable goods outlays. Consumer spending in the second quarter was the fastest in a year.
Amid robust consumer spending, businesses accumulated a bit more inventory than previously reported to meet the strong demand. Inventory investment added just over one-tenth of a percentage point to GDP growth in the second quarter. It was previously reported to have been neutral.
Growth in business spending on equipment was unchanged at a rate of 8.8 percent, the fastest pace in nearly two years.
Investment on nonresidential structures was revised to show it increasing at a 7.0 percent pace, up from the previously reported 6.2 percent rate.
Both export and import growth were revised slightly lower. Trade contributed two-tenths of a percentage point to GDP growth last quarter. Housing was a slightly bigger drag on growth in the last quarter than previously reported, subtracting 0.3 percentage point from output.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)