Washington — The gross national product -- the market value of the country's goods and services -- grew at a "desirable" annual rate of 4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the Commerce Department reported. GNP increased $95 billion in the fourth quarter, the department said. The 4 percent annual rate compares with the third quarter rate of 2.4 percent.
Also issued this week were three reports covering January that showed increases in housing starts, the personal income of Americans, and the use rate of the nation's factories. Economic analysts who had been predicting a slide back into recession have been tempering their forecasts in recent weeks; t he new reports seemed to back this tempering.