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US economy grew at 3.2 percent rate in Q4

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter on the strength of the strongest consumer spending in three years, an encouraging sign for 2014.

The fourth-quarter increase followed a 4.1 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter, when the economy was boosted by a buildup in business stockpiles.

The Commerce Department says that for 2013 as a whole, the economy grew a tepid 1.9 percent, below the 2.8 percent increase in 2012. Growth was held back last year by higher federal taxes and government spending cuts.

With that drag removed, many economists think growth could top 3 percent in 2014, which would be the best performance since the recession ended in mid-2009.

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