WASHINGTON — An unusual surge in business investment and heavy consumer spending pushed the nation's economy to a strong annual growth rate of 4.1% during the three months before the October stock market crash, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
The third-quarter growth estimate for the gross national product, revised from a preliminary estimate a month ago of 3.8%, was about in line with predictions. It generally reinforced the belief of economists that the economy was expanding at a substantial and well balanced clip before the Oct. 19 market plunge.
The Commerce Department issued also a new measure of one of the economy's most nagging problems, the trade deficit. Measured on a balance-of-payments basis in 1987 dollars, Americans imported $39.8 billion more in goods than they exported during the July-September period, the largest quarterly trade deficit ever.
However, exports were up 9% in the quarter, growing faster than imports, which were up 6%.
By a different measure, which also takes into account trade in services and income from investment abroad and is used as a basis for the GNP estimate, the U.S. trade deficit for the third quarter was $29.9 billion, equal to an annual rate of $119.8 billion.