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Brisk Q4 economic growth rate not expected to be sustained

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By Jeannine Aversa

WASHINGTON (AP) — The economy rocketed ahead at a 5.9 percent pace in the final quarter of 2009, stronger than initially estimated. But the growth spurt isn't expected to carry over into this year.

The fresh reading on the nation's economic standing, released by the Commerce Department on Friday, was better than the government's initial estimate a month ago of 5.7 percent growth. It would mark the strongest showing in six years.

Even so, it didn't change the expectation of much slower economic activity in the current January-to-March quarter.

Roughly two-thirds of last quarter's growth came from a burst of manufacturing — but not because consumer demand was especially strong. In fact, consumer spending weakened at the end of the year, even more than the government first thought.

Instead, factories were churning out goods for businesses that had let their stockpiles dwindle to save cash. If consumer spending remains lackluster as expected, that burst of manufacturing — and its contribution to economic activity — will fade.

The signs aren't hopeful. Consumer confidence took an unexpected dive in February. Unemployment stands at 9.7 percent. Home foreclosures are at record highs. And many Americans are still having trouble getting loans.


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