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Economy outpaces estimates

But GDP posts very weak gains in the 2d quarter

WASHINGTON -- The economy grew at a faster pace this spring than previously thought, but was at its weakest showing in more than a year, providing ammunition to both candidates in the final weeks of the presidential race.

The 3.3 percent annual growth rate of gross domestic product in the April-June period was stronger than the 2.8 percent pace estimated last month, the Commerce Department said yesterday. GDP is the country's total output of goods and services.

Still, the improvement was significantly lower than the first quarter's 4.5 percent annual rate, as rising energy prices caused consumers to cut back sharply on their overall spending.

The second-quarter boost to the nearly $11.7 trillion economy came from expanded business inventories and investments, an increase in exports, and a drop in imports.

''The economy is doing better than many anticipated," said Sung Won Sohn, economist at Wells Fargo & Co. ''And the better news is that economic growth will accelerate." Sohn said he expected a third-quarter growth rate approaching 4 percent.

The report sent stocks higher, with the Dow Jones closing up nearly 59 points and the Nasdaq up 24 points.

Also yesterday, the International Monetary Fund said the US economy should grow by a solid 4.3 percent this year.

That prediction marked a slight downward revision from the IMF's spring forecast that growth would be an even faster 4.6 percent this year.

The government's first estimate of third-quarter GDP will be released Oct. 29, four days before the election.

Inflation showed a slight increase in the spring.

A gauge that is tied to GDP rose at an annual rate of 3.2 percent, compared with 2.7 percent in the first quarter.

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