Economy nearly stalls

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Washington (AP) The economy nearly sputtered out in the final quarter of last year. It is probably faring even worse now as the housing, credit and financial crises take their toll on people and businesses alike.

The Commerce Department, in a new report today, says the economy grew at a feeble 0.6 percent annual rate in the October-to-December quarter. The reading, unchanged from a previous estimate a month ago, provided stark evidence of just how much the economy has weakened. In the prior quarter, the economy clocked in at sizzling 4.9 percent growth rate.

The government also says fewer people signed up for unemployment benefits last week, although that didn't change the broader picture of a slower jobs market.

The labor department, in a new report, says new applications filed for unemployment benefits last week fell by a seasonally adjusted 9,000 to 366,000. That level of 366,000 was better than the 371,000 that many economists were forecasting. Still, economists predict the nation's labor market will slow and unemployment will rise this year, given the credit and financial crises.