The United States economy grew at an annual rate of 2.7 percent from January through March, the best performance in more than three years, the government said Thursday.

The Commerce Department said that the increase in the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, represented an upward revision from a month ago, when the increase was put at a slightly smaller 2.4 percent.

The new-found strength came in several key areas. Residential construction, capital investment, business inventories and the country's trade performance all looked better in today's report than previously estimated.

In an accompanying report, the Commerce Department said that after-tax profits of American corporations shot up by 11.3 percent in the first three months of the year, the biggest increase in nearly five years.

The possibility that this year's recovery could stall out, as a similar upturn did in 1991, cannot be ruled out, economists said, although they believe it is less likely to occur this year.

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