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U.S. economy expands 2.5 percent through first quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. economic growth accelerated to an annual rate of 2.5 percent from January through March, buoyed by the strongest consumer spending in more than two years. Government spending fell, though, and tax increases and federal budget cuts could slow growth later this year.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the economy rebounded from an anemic 0.4 percent annual growth rate in the October-December quarter. Consumer spending surged at an annual rate of 3.2 percent — its biggest jump since the end of 2010.

Growth was also helped by businesses, which responded to the greater demand by rebuilding their stockpiles. And home construction rose further.

Government spending sank at a 4.1 percent annual rate, led by another deep cut in defense spending. The decline kept last quarter's increase in economic growth below expectations of a 3 percent rate or more.

Many economists say they think growth as measured by the gross domestic product is slowing in the April-June quarter to an annual rate of just 2 percent. Most foresee growth remaining around that subpar level for the rest of the year.

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