WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US current account deficit widened in the first quarter for the third time in a row as imports outpaced exports in the recovering economy, official data showed Thursday. The Commerce Department said the current account deficit increased to 109.0 billion dollars from 100.9 billion dollars in the 2009 fourth quarter. That was far below the consensus analyst forecast of a rise to 120.7 billion dollars. The rise in the current account deficit, the broadest measure of trade and investment flows, was led by an increase in imported goods, the department said, offering more evidence of a rebounding from the worst recession in decades. The recovery of international trade and finance remains on track. Rising flows of exports and imports are being accompanied by rising trade in international financial assets, said Christopher Cornell of Moodys Economy.com. The first-quarter current account deficit of the worlds largest economy represented 3.0 percent of gross domestic product, or economic output, up from 2.8 percent of GDP in the prior quarter. The increase was the third consecutive quarterly rise since the deficit of 84.4 billion dollars in the 2009 second quarter, which was the smallest deficit since the third quarter of 1999. The deficit on goods and services increased to 115.3 billion dollars in the first quarter from 104.7 billion dollars in the fourth. Goods exports and imports increased across the board, led by industrial supplies and materials. Foreign direct investment in the United States rose to 47.3 billion dollars in the first quarter from 41.5 billion in the fourth. US Treasury securities are proving especially popular, reflecting both the rising relative fortunes of the US economy and a flight-to-quality phenomenon, Cornell said. The Moodys analyst noted the report did not cover recent developments in the European sovereign debt crisis and he predicted the second-quarter report, scheduled for release in September, would show a further flight to quality. Looking ahead we think the deficit will remain close to current levels in the second quarter but will come under upward pressure later in the year as the stronger dollar and darkening outlook in Europe start to bite, said Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics.