1st-qtr GDP seen stronger than first reported

NEW YORK Wed May 28, 2008 9:25pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. first-quarter economic growth was probably a bit stronger than originally reported, according to estimates in a Reuters poll.

Economists expect the Commerce Department's "preliminary" estimate for first-quarter gross domestic product to show growth of 0.9 percent, based on the median of their forecasts.

This would be higher than the 0.6 percent "advance" estimate a month ago. The economy also grew 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The 76 projections for first quarter GDP ranged from growth of 0.6 percent to 1.3 percent.

The data is due for release on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). It is the second of three readings on first-quarter gross domestic product, with the final report due on June 26.

The following is a selection of economists' comments.

BARCLAYS CAPITAL

Forecast: 0.8 pct

"Our forecast owes to newly available data that came in higher than the BEA's assumptions, as well as revisions to final demand components, including construction spending, trade, and retail sales, which more than offset weaker inventory building. The combination of stronger final demand and less inventory building suggests a somewhat more positive backdrop going into Q2 08, and we continue to forecast growth of 1.0 percent."

INSIGHT ECONOMICS

Forecast: 0.6 pct

"GDP was little changed by this revision to Q1. Net exports were sharply stronger, and construction activity was modestly firmer, than previously estimated. However, inventory investment was substantially weaker and consumer spending was slightly softer than earlier assumed. Although there was little change in overall growth, the composition of output -- particularly less inventory building -- was more favorable for growth in Q2."

WACHOVIA

Forecast: 0.9 pct

"Upward adjustments from trade, personal construction and non-residential construction should more than offset lower inventory investment. The lower inventory investment will actually help out second quarter GDP growth which we now estimate to come in around 1.0 percent."

(Polling by Bangalore Polling Unit)

(Reporting by Burton Frierson; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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