Economy Grew 1.4% in Fourth Quarter; War Hurts March Sales

WASHINGTON -- Fourth-quarter gross domestic product rose at an unrevised 1.4 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That was down from the 4.0 percent pace reported in the third quarter. The slowdown was mainly driven by weaker consumer spending and a fall in exports.

For all of 2002, the U.S. economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate, up from the 0.3 percent reported during 2001. Some economists expect the economy to pick up to a 2.2 percent growth in the first quarter; however, the war in Iraq is already having an impact on consumers.

According to ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based firm that tracks retail traffic and sales, U.S. retail sales fell 9.9 percent during the first four days of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The sharpest decline was on March 20, the first full day of the war, when sales dropped 13.9 percent compared to March 20, 2002.
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