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Economy plunges 31.4% in spring but big rebound expected

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy plunged at a record rate in the spring but is poised to swing to a record increase in the quarter that just ended.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, fell at a rate of 31.4% in the April-June quarter, only slightly changed from the 31.7% drop estimated one month ago.

The new report, the government’s last look at the second quarter, showed a decline that was almost four times larger than the previous record-holder, a fall of 10% in the first quarter of 1958 when Dwight Eisenhower was president.

Economists believe the economy will expand at an annual rate of 30% in the current quarter as businesses have re-opened and millions of people have gone back to work. That would shatter the old record for a quarterly GDP increase, a 16.7% surge in the first quarter of 1950 when Harry Truman was president.

The government will not release its just-ended July-September GDP report until Oct. 29, just five days before the presidential election.

While President Donald Trump is counting on an economic rebound to convince voters to give him a second term, economists said the economy’s future is far from certain.

Many are forecasting that growth will slow significantly in the final three months of this year to a rate of around 4% and could actually topple back into a recession if Congress fails to pass another stimulus measure or if a rising number of coronavirus cases sharply curtails economic activity.

Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press

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