WASHINGTON — Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the U.S. — increased at an annual rate of 2.4% in the first quarter of 2013, according to the preliminary estimate released by the Commerce Department Thursday.

The GDP growth was a hair shy of the 2.5% increase projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, but was much stronger than the 0.4% increase reported in the final quarter of 2012. The advance estimate released in April originally pegged first quarter growth at 2.5%.

The preliminary estimate is based on more complete data than the advance estimate, but remains subject to a final revision.

Personal consumption expenditures increased at an annual rate of 3.4% in the first quarter, after rising at a 1.8% annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2012. That represents the largest quarterly PCE upturn since a 4.1% increase in the final quarter of 2010. PCE growth was reported at 3.2% in the advance estimate.

Exports of goods and services rose 0.8%, a sharp downward revision from the 2.9% spike reported in the advance estimate. Imports, which are a subtraction from GDP, increased 1.9% in the first quarter of 2013, downwardly revised from a 5.4% jump reported in the advance estimate.

The overall GDP increase reflected a rise in private inventory investment, the acceleration of PCE, increased exports, and both residential and nonresidential fixed investment, the Commerce Department said.

Those factors were partly offset by the increase in imports and a decline in federal government spending, which dropped 8.7%. Decreased levels of state and local government spending, which fell 2.4%, were also negative factors for the GDP.

The final estimate of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2013, based on more complete data, is scheduled for release June 26.

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