The U.S. economy expanded by a modest 1.9 percent on an annual basis in the first quarter of the year, the Commerce Department confirmed Thursday. The advance, which follows 3 percent growth of the fourth quarter of 2011, was confirmed in the final estimate out of three released by the department. Economists had not predicted any changes in the third estimate. However, economists expected a 2.1 percent rise from the fourth quarter in personal consumer expenditures. The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 2.3 percent quarter to quarter. The price index also beat expectations with prices jumping 2.6 percent in the quarter after rising 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Excluding the volatile categories of food and energy, the price index for gross domestic purchases rose 2.4 percent in the quarter, up from 1.2 percent October through December. The report said corporate profits grew to $1.645 trillion on an annualized basis, a downward revision from the previous report, which set profits at $1.669 trillion.