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Growth in US consumption, which accounts for 70 per cent of the overall economy, cooled in the first quarter to the lowest pace since 2009.

Personal consumption expenditures rose at an annualised rate of just 0.3 per cent in the first quarter, a sharp pull-back from the fourth quarter of 2016 when they jumped at a 3.5 per cent gait, commerce department data show. The average since the start of 2014, not including the data released on Friday, has been roughly 3 per cent.

The fall was somewhat expected, with the consensus estimate at 0.9 per cent. One-time factors, such as delayed tax refunds, may have played a role.

But the data underscore the muddied view of the economy at a time when President Donald Trump has vowed to push for far higher levels of growth. Auto sales, for instance, were much weaker than expected in March.

Wall Street appeared to breathe a sigh of relief that the data were not weaker. Investors sold Treasuries, sending the 10-year yield higher by 0.029 percentage points to 2.323 per cent. S&P 500 futures pointed to a slightly higher open for the benchmark index.

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