WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – The U.S. expanded at a 2.3% annual pace in the first three months of 2018, somewhat slower than in the prior three quarters but a better performance than expected. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 2% increase in gross domestic product. Consumer spending, the main engine of growth, rose just 1.1% after a 4% gain the fourth quarter that was the biggest in three years. Yet businesses picked up the slack. Investment in structures doubled to 12.3% and spending on equipment was up 6.1%. Residential investment was flat. The value of inventories, which adds to GDP, increased to $33.1 billion from $15.6 billion. Exports rose 4.8% and imports rose a slower 2.6%. A smaller trade deficit adds to GDP. Inflation as measured by the PCE price index rose at a 2.7% annual rate in the first quarter. The year over year rate of Inflation edged up to 1.8% from 1.7%.