U.S. economy grows at 3.5 pct. rate in 3rd qtr.

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The U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter, fueled by a surge in exports and the biggest jump in military spending in five years, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The first of three gross domestic product (GDP) estimates for the July-September period topped analysts’ expectations of a 3 percent annual rate of growth.

Between April and June, the U.S. economy grew at a 4.6 percent annual rate, the fastest pace since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of GDP in the United States, grew by 1.8 percent in the third quarter after a 2.5 percent increase between April and June.

Exports increased by 7.8 percent and imports decreased by 1.7 percent in the third quarter, the report said.

Federal government expenses increased by a hefty 10 percent in the period, driven by a 16 percent increase in defense spending.

The U.S. government will release its second estimate of third-quarter GDP by Nov. 25.

Amid growing optimism fed by recent good GDP numbers and decreasing unemployment, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday ended its multi-billion-dollar bond buying program, which stimulated the economy with purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed assets since 2012.

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