The U.S. economy grew significantly in the first quarter of 2013, bolstered by the strongest consumer spending in more than two years.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that U.S. Gross Domestic Product – the broadest measure of the economy -- grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent from January through March.
Consumer spending -- a key driver of economic growth -- surged at an annual pace of 3.2 percent, reflecting its biggest increase since 2010.
Government spending, on the other hand, fell at a 4.1 percent annual clip, as deep cuts in defense spending held total GDP below expectations of 3 percent or more.
The notion of slowing economic growth brought out the bears Friday as major stock indices and most commodity prices declined precipitously on the news.
Last week, after China reported ITS economy ALSO slowed in the first quarter, equity markets posted their largest weekly decline in more than five months. But with a population of nearly one-and-a-half billion people, China continues to be a lucrative market for U.S. exports. And last week, farm state leaders sat down with Chinese officials to negotiate agricultural trade.
While trade missions to foreign countries are normally a blip on the import-export scene, one group of governors and businesspeople embarked on a noteworthy six-day visit to China last week. The key difference with this trade summit, and most other junkets of this nature, is that two leaders have history reaching back over two and a half decades.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, not traditionally regarded as a power broker in Chinese-American relations, made his second trip in a year to the world’s most populous nation.
Among the 50-member group of business leaders and politicians were Republican Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bob McDonnell of Virginia.
Their four city tour included visits to an agricultural university, an automotive plant, and meetings with Chinese officials.
Iowa Governor Branstad also met privately with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The 45-minute face-to-face was described as “warm and cordial.” According to Branstad, Xi spoke highly of the Hawkeye State and its people.
Rural America is not completely foreign to Xi Jinping. A 1985 agricultural research trip brought the future Chinese leader to Iowa, where he spent time on a farm near Muscatine, and was initially introduced to Branstad during the Iowa Governor’s first term.
Xi returned to Iowa in February of 2012, before ascending to his position as China’s top official, to visit his former host family and attend a state dinner.
Though the nation once referred to as a “Sleeping Giant” is a huge importer of agricultural goods, no new trade agreements were formally announced. But Branstad described the trip as “extremely productive.”