WASHINGTON  - The US economy grew slightly faster than first estimated in the second quarter but remained sluggish, a government update showed Wednesday.

The Commerce Department said gross domestic product — a broad measure of the nation’s goods and services — rose at an annualized rate of 1.7 percent in the April-June period.

Its initial July estimate of GDP growth was 1.5 percent.

The rate was slightly better than the 1.6 percent pace expected by most analysts, but lagged the first quarter’s 2.0 percent rise.

The Commerce Department said the revision mainly reflected a reduction in the figures for imports, which subtract from GDP, and higher exports and spending by consumers and state and local government.

“That the slowdown in growth, and personal consumption in particular, were not as significant as first estimated is a positive sign, but does little to alter the view that the US economy continues to tick along at a moderate pace and struggles to break out into a full-on recovery with consistently above-potential growth,” said Michael Gapen, a Barclays analyst.

Growth was the slowest since the third quarter of 2011 and was expected to remain sluggish in the current third quarter.

“At this pace, unemployment will remain stuck above 8.0 percent for some time. Businesses are reticent to hire because of the threats posed by the approaching fiscal cliff in Washington, a potential break-up of the eurozone, and rising energy prices,” said Scott Hoyt at Moody’s Analytics.

The weak report on the world’s largest economy came two days before Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s keenly awaited speech.

Market hopes are high that Bernanke will signal new economic stimulus when he addresses central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Friday.

“Slow nominal GDP growth will be used by some as an argument in favor of expanding the Fed’s balance sheet at the September FOMC meeting,” said RDQ Economics analysts.

For others, it boosted the argument against more stimulus.

“We continue to assume that consumption will accelerate further in the second half of the year, as the fundamentals for such a pick-up are all in place,” said Harm Bandholz of Unicredit.

The GDP numbers came a few hours before the Fed publishes its Beige Book report on economic conditions that will be used as a framework for the September 12-13 meeting of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.

At its last meeting, the FOMC signaled new support would be forthcoming if warranted by economic conditions.

The GDP data also will serve as fodder in the tight presidential race between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney ahead of the November 6 election.

With the economy and unemployment the top of voters’ concerns, Obama has defended his Democratic administration’s policies as keeping the economy growing and preventing an even deeper recession from a Wall Street meltdown that began under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush.

Romney charges Obama has held back the recovery and argues that less government, less regulation and lower taxes are the remedy for weak growth.