WASHINGTON, May 29 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent in the first quarter on weaker-than-expected trade and private investment amid the brutally cold weather, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
It is the first contraction since the first quarter of 2011 when gross domestic product (GDP) decreased 1.3 percent. The government initially estimated the economy grew 0.1 percent.
The first quarter contraction primarily reflected a sharp slowdown in business inventories, which subtracted 1.62 percentage points from GDP growth, compared with an initial estimate of a 0.57 percentage point fall.
Trade deficit also sliced off 0.95 percentage point, more than previous estimate of 0.83 percent, the department said.
Personal consumption, which accounts for about 70 percent of overall economic activity, grew at a pace of 3.1 percent in the first quarter, revised up slightly from the initial estimate of 3 percent.
Nonresidential fixed investment was revised to a fall of 1.6 percent after gaining 5.7 percent in the previous quarter, with spending on structures down 7.5 percent and investment on equipment down 3.1 percent.
The slowing housing market became a drag on U.S. economic growth in the first quarter, with residential fixed investment falling 5 percent and subtracting 0.16 percentage point from growth.
Federal government spending increased 0.7 percent in the first quarter, a slight boost to overall economic growth, compared with a severe contraction of 12.8 percent in the proceeding period. However, state and local government spending fell 1.8 percent, dragging down the economy by 0.2 percentage point in the first quarter.
Many economists had hoped that this year could be a breakout year for U.S. economic growth, after the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter last year.
But the first quarter contraction indicates economists may be over optimistic, although they were expecting a bigger bounce back in the second quarter.
U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said earlier this month she expected economic growth to accelerate this year despite an anemic first quarter but the cooling trend in the housing sector would be a fresh concern.
"One cautionary note, though, is that readings on housing activity -- a sector that has been recovering since 2011 -- have remained disappointing so far this year and will bear watching," the central bank chief said.
"The recent fattening out in housing activity could prove more protracted than currently expected rather than resuming its earlier pace of recovery," Yellen warned.