US economy in slim GDP rise

City A.M. Reporter
US economic growth edged up as expected in the third quarter but not enough to chip away at high unemployment or change perceptions of more monetary easing from the Federal Reserve next week.

Gross domestic product expanded at a two per cent annual rate as consumer spending rose at its fastest pace since 2006, the Commerce Department said on Friday.

While consumer spending quickened and business investment continued to expand, much of the rise in demand was met by overseas production and domestic goods continued to pile up in warehouses, suggesting tepid growth in the fourth quarter.

"The economy is recovering, but recovering at an anaemic pace, and this certainly will help the Fed in its deliberations on Tuesday," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at Hugh Johnson Advisors in Albany, New York.

The economy expanded at a 1.7 per cent rate in the second quarter and third-quarter growth matched economists' expectations.

Details of the report reinforced financial market expectations the Fed will announce a second round of bond purchases at its November 2-3 meeting to push interest rates down further to energize the recovery and ward off deflationary pressures.

The GDP report showed the Fed's preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, excluding food and energy, rose at an annual rate of 0.8 percent in the third quarter.

That was the smallest increase since the fourth quarter of 2008 and well below the Fed's comfort zone for inflation.

The index increased at a one per cent rate in the second quarter.

Analysts expect the Fed to announce bond purchases of about $100 billion (£62bn) a month on Wednesday.

US stock index futures pared losses to trade nearly flat. Bond prices rose on the premise of more "quantitative easing" from the Fed, while the dollar extended losses against the yen on the prospect the Fed will need to print more money.

The economy is experiencing a slow recovery by historical standards, with unemployment at 9.6 per cent and Americans increasingly nervous about the future.

That is expected to shift the country's political landscape in Tuesday's congressional elections, seen as a vote on President Barack Obama's performance on the economy. His Democratic party is expected to suffer big losses.

The US central bank cut overnight interest rates to near zero in December 2008 and has bought about $1.7 trillion (£1.06 trillion) worth of Treasury and mortgage-related debt since then.