Bob Willis
April 30, 2009

The U.S. economy plunged again in the first quarter, making this the worst recession in at least half a century.

[efoods]Gross domestic product dropped at a 6.1 percent annual pace, weaker than forecast, after contracting at a 6.3 percent rate in the last three months of 2008, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The report, which reflected a record slump in inventories and further declines in housing, came hours before Federal Reserve officials said the economy continued to contract at a “somewhat slower” pace.

Smaller stockpiles may set the stage for a return to growth in the second half of the year amid signs Fed efforts to reduce borrowing costs and unclog lending are starting to pay off. The contraction persisted even as lower gasoline prices and larger tax refunds helped bring an end to the worst slump in consumer spending in almost three decades.

“We are likely to emerge from this recession very slowly and the recovery will be very weak,” said Richard Berner, chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley in New York. “The aggressive policy response we have gotten will take time to work, but it will counter the still-strong headwinds holding the economy back.”

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