Apr 25, 9:36 PM EDT

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea's economy has expanded at its slowest pace in three quarters.

The Bank of Korea said Tuesday that Asia's fourth-largest economy grew 2.7 percent during the first quarter over a year earlier and just 0.4 percent from the previous quarter.

The results were the worst since July, when private consumption and tourism took a big hit from the spread of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome.

During the first quarter, government spending supported the economy while exports and capital expenditure dropped from the previous quarter.

Last week, the central bank cut its annual growth forecast by 0.2 percentage points to 2.8 percent.

The bank held off from lowering the key interest rate from the record low of 1.5 percent this month. But expectations are mounting for a rate cut.

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