The US economy grew at a moderate 2.1% rate in the final three months of 2019, capping a year when growth slowed significantly due to a weaker global economy and trade war uncertainties, the AP reports. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the fourth-quarter increase in the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, matched the 2.1% gain of the third quarter. Both quarters were well below the 3.1% surge seen in the first quarter. For the October-December quarter, growth was supported by solid but slower consumer spending and an improvement in the trade deficit. Those factors offset a further drop in business investment in new plants and equipment and a slowdown in restocking store shelves. For the whole year, GDP increased 2.3%, the weakest performance in three years.
That was also a slowdown from a 2.9% gain in 2018 when the economy got a boost from President Trump’s tax cuts and billions of dollars in increased government spending. Economists expect even slower growth in 2020 of around 1.8%. But that outcome could be threatened by various threats, from a spreading coronavirus in China to a flare-up in trade tensions between the US and China. Even the US presidential election could end up having an adverse effect on growth if a hard-fought campaign increases uncertainty among consumers and businesses and causes them to cut back on spending. While Trump has not achieved his GDP growth goals, he has seen unemployment fall to a 50-year low during his presidency, and after trade tensions with China began to cool late last year, the stock market rebounded and climbed to new record highs.
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