New data released Wednesday show the U.S. economy bounced
back in the spring, growing at a 4% annual pace in the second quarter. That was
even better than the forecast of 3% growth, according to a consensus of
economists surveyed by CNNMoney.
Consumer spending, which alone accounts for about two thirds
of U.S. economic activity, strengthened, as did exports to foreign countries
and business investments. American consumers spent more money on long-lasting
goods like autos, appliances and furniture, while businesses invested more in
technology and industrial equipment. Both can be seen as good signs that
households and companies are more optimistic and investing in the future.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis also revised historical
data, and the new numbers show the bad winter wasn't quite as bleak as last
reported. The economy contracted at a 2.1% rate in the first three months of
the year, as opposed to the decline of 2.9% reported last month.
Meanwhile, the second half of 2013 was also stronger than originally reported.
The beginning of the year was marked by a disconnect in the
economic data. Employers were hiring at their strongest pace in years despite
the drop in GDP. Now, economists are hoping the overall economy is back on
track. A separate report released by payroll processing firm ADP (ADP) earlier
Wednesday shows the private sector added 218,000 jobs in July.
The Department of Labor will release its latest jobs report
on Friday. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney predict that 230,000 jobs were added
in July. If they're right, that will mark the sixth month in a row where the
economy added more than 200,000 jobs.
The Federal Reserve is closely watching the data too. The
central bank is in the process of winding down its stimulative policies and is
expected to consider its first interest rate hike since 2006 sometime soon. If
the Fed hikes rates too soon, it could hinder economic growth. If it waits too
long, inflation may rise too quickly. Most economists expect the first rate
increase to occur in the spring or summer of 2015.
The Fed's top officials will issue their latest policy
statement later Wednesday. Fed watchers expect little news, aside from another
$10 billion cut in bond purchases. The central bank has been gradually
reducing, or tapering, its monthly bond purchases since January.
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