WASHINGTON, March 27 (Xinhua)-- The U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, slightly higher than previously thought, the Commerce Department said in its final estimate released on Thursday.
The growth of the real gross domestic product (GDP) in October-December period was stronger than the 2.4 percent rate reported by the department last month, but slowed from a more rapid rate of 4.1 percent in the previous quarter. Economists generally expected a upward revised growth rate of 2.7 percent for the last quarter of 2013.
"With the third estimate for the fourth quarter, the general picture of economic growth remains largely the same," the Commerce Department noted.
Consumers spent more in the fourth quarter as real personal consumption expenditures, which account for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, rose 3.3 percent. It was up from the previous estimate of 2.6 percent and from 2 percent pace in the third quarter, indicating improved underlying strength of the U.S. economy.
Real nonresidential fixed investment increased 5.7 percent from a 4.8 percent rate in the third quarter.
Real residential fixed investment decreased 7.9 percent, less than the 8.7 percent drop previously estimated. It rose 10.3 percent in the previous quarter.
Growth in real exports of goods and services was revised up from 9.4 percent to 9.5 percent, compared with an increase of 3.9 percent in the third quarter. Real imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased 1.5 percent in the four quarter.
Real federal government spending decreased 12.8 percent, a much deeper cut than the 1.5 percent decline in the third quarter.
The change in business inventory spending subtracted 0.02 percentage points to the fourth-quarter change in real GDP, after adding 1.67 percentage point to the third-quarter change.
Real GDP increased 1.9 percent in 2013, an deceleration from the 2.8 percent pace in 2012, according to the report.