4th-quarter GNP fell 2% Jan. home resales off 7%


WASHINGTON -- In a report that tended to support the idea that the recession will be relatively short and shallow, the Commerce Department revised yesterday its estimate of economic activity in the final quarter of 1990, showing that the gross national product fell at an annual rate of 2 percent.

This was only slightly less than the estimate last month of a 2.1 percent decline for the October-December period, but economists said that shifts among the various GNP components were mostly heartening.

Final sales, for example, are now shown to have risen 0.6 percent in the quarter instead of edging down 0.1 percent, said Elliott Platt of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. And inventories of cars and other goods were drawn down much faster than had been thought.

Also yesterday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes dropped 7 percent last month.

"Consumers were more focused on events in the Persian Gulf than on buying a home," said Harley E. Rouda, president of the association, who noted that January usually is a slow month for home sales.

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