WASHINGTON – Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 2.2% in the first quarter of 2012, according to the advance estimate released by the Commerce Department Friday.

The advance estimate of first quarter real GDP, compiled from partially complete source data and subject to further revision, fell short of the 2.5% median increase projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures the prices paid by U.S. residents, increased 2.4% in the first quarter. That report showed a 2.1% rise in the core price index, which excludes food and energy, right in line with the economists' projection.

The increase in real GDP reflected a gain of 2.9% in personal consumption expenditures, the largest quarterly uptick since it climbed 3.6% in the fourth quarter of 2010. Also contributing to the first quarter rise were increases of 5.4% in real exports and 6.0% in gross private domestic investment.

Those gains were partially offset by decreases of 5.6% in federal government spending and 1.2% in state and local government spending. Imports, which are subtracted from the calculation of GDP, increased 4.3% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said.

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