WASHINGTON — Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the U.S. — decreased at an annual rate of 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the advance estimate released by the Commerce Department Wednesday.
The decline in GDP was even more severe than the sluggish 1.2% increase projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters. The GDP figure was far short of the unrevised 3.1% growth rate reported in the final third quarter reading.
The 0.1% slip in GDP was the weakest since the second quarter of 2009, when GDP declined 0.3%.
Personal consumption expenditures increased 2.2% in the fourth quarter. Excluding food and energy, PCE increased 0.9%.
The decline in GDP reflected decreases in inventory investment, federal government spending, state and local government spending and exports. Federal spending and investment plunged 15%, the largest drop since a 15.9% dive in the third quarter of 1973.
These factors were partly offset by accelerated consumer spending, declining imports, and increased nonresidential fixed investment, the Commerce Department said.
The advance estimate is based on incomplete data that is subject to further revision, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis.