GDP rose 3.2% in fourth quarter

The U.S. economy picked up the pace in the fourth quarter as consumers opened their wallets and businesses increased investments, marking one of the best six-month periods of growth in a decade.

Gross domestic product, which is the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Today’s report showed that personal consumption expenditures, which make up more than two-thirds of GDP, rose at a 3.3-percent pace, its strongest in three years. Across 2013, the economy expanded at a 1.9-percent pace.

The last time the economy expanded by at least 3 percent annually was before the recession, when it reached 3.4 percent in 2005.

Healthy spending by consumers and businesses and stronger exports helped drive fourth-quarter growth and offset declines from the government and residential sectors.

The latest GDP figures show the economy expanded at a 3.7-percent pace in the second half of 2013, which was sharply higher than the 1.8-percent pace in the first half of the year. That marked the strongest second-half growth since 2003, when the economy expanded at a 5.8-percent pace.

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