U.S. economic growth slowed slightly in the third quarter but beat economists’ expectations as continued consumer spending helped offset another decline in business investment.
In its initial estimate of third-quarter growth, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 1.9% in the third quarter, down from 2% in the second quarter. Economists had expected growth of 1.6%.
Consumption, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity, continued to show resilience as spending rose 2.9%. But business investment fell 3%, with spending on factories and offices down by 15.3%.
“If I saw cracks in the consumer sector, I would be worried, but I don’t see that yet,” Ben Herzon, executive director of United States economics at Macroeconomic Advisers, told The New York Times. “The economy is not slowing into a recession.”
According to the Times, “There is something of a tug-of-war going on between consumers, who continue to spend, and businesses, which have sharply pulled back on investment.”
Businesses have shied away from investing amid trade tensions and a slowing worldwide growth that have hit the manufacturing sector particularly hard. The pace of spending on equipment sank 3.8% in the third quarter.
“There’s been a big drop in business confidence, across the board,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Consumer spending has decelerated from the second quarter, when it increased 4.6%. The Commerce Department said earlier this month that retail sales dropped 0.3% in September as households slashed spending on building materials, online purchases, and, especially, automobiles. The decline was the first since February.
“Fears of a global slump weighing on the American economy, coupled with the deceleration in manufacturing, appeared to hit recent retail sales in September, suggesting that American households could be starting to curb their spending habits,” CNBC said.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday lowered its benchmark interest rate again as a preventive measure to keep the economic slowdown from turning into a recesssion. “The biggest risks to the economy today are uncertainty and complacency,” Cris deRitis, deputy chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said.