WASHINGTON — Real gross domestic product expanded at a 1.8% annual rate in the first quarter of 2011 as imports and slower consumer and government spending hindered growth, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Personal consumption expenditures increased 2.7% for the three months ending March 31. Core personal consumption expenditures — which exclude food and energy and is the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation — gained 1.5% for the quarter, the largest increase in 15 months.

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