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ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL DEVELOPMENTS IN 2000 The expansion of US economic activity maintained considerable momentum through the early months of 2000 despite the firming in credit markets that has occurred over the past year Only recently has the pace of real activity shown signs of having moderated from the extremely rapid rate of increase that prevailed during the second half of 1999 and the first quarter of 2000 Real GDP increased at an annual rate of 5-12 percent in the first quarter of 2000 Private domestic final sales which had accelerated in the second half of 1999 were particularly robust rising at an annual rate of almost 10 percent in the first quarter Underlying that surge in domestic spending were many of the same factors that had contributed to the con-siderable strength of outlays in the second half of 1999 The ongoing influence of substantial increases in real income and wealth continued to fuel consumer spend-ing and business investment which continues to be undergirded by the desire to take advantage of new cost-saving technologies was further buoyed by an accel-eration in sales and profits late last year Export demand posted a solid gain during the first quarter while imports rose even more rapidly to meet booming domestic demand The available data on balance point to another solid increase in real GDP in the second quarter although they suggest that private household and business fixed investment spending likely slowed noticeably from the extraordinary first-quarter pace Through June the expansion remained brisk enough to keep labor utilization near the very high levels reached at the end of 1999 and to raise the factory utilization rate to close to its long-run average by early spring Inflation rates over the first half of 2000 were elevated by an additional increase in the price of imported crude oil which led to sharp hikes in retail energy prices early in the year and again around midyear Apart from energy consumer price
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