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WASHINGTON -- The Commerce Department reported earlier this week that gross domestic product increased at a meager 0.6 percent annual rate in the October to December 2007 quarter, yet in the prior quarter, the economy generated a 4.9 percent growth rate, The Associated Press reported.
What's worse is economists report that the economy may prove even weaker in the current quarter, due to continuing housing, credit and financial crises, according to the AP.
"The economy just kept its head above water" in the fourth quarter, Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at Global Insight, told the AP. "We think that gross domestic product (GDP) will decline, albeit slightly, during the first half of 2008." He added: "The first half outlook is bleak."
Other economists are saying the economy may be shrinking now, according to the AP. To be considered in a recession, the U.S. economy needs to contract for six straight months, the report stated. The government will release its estimate for first-quarter GDP in late April.
However, consumers boosted spending 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter, beating the 1.9 percent growth rate previously estimated, but still below the third quarter's 2.8 percent pace, the AP reported.