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Byline: CHRISTINA WISE
The economy stumbled in the fourth quarter as GDP grew a scant 0.7%, bringing the average annual growth rate for 2002 to 2.4%, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
The quarter fell just short of the 0.8% rise economists had predicted and was well below the third quarter's 4%.
Consumer spending stalled, as personal consumption expenditures dropped to 1% -- the lowest pace in almost a decade -- from 4.2% the prior quarter.
Durable goods expenditures, driven by a decline in auto sales, fell 7.3% in sharp contrast to the third quarter's 22.8% surge.
The widening trade deficit also dampened GDP as net exports fell to a negative $506.9 billion in the fourth quarter from …