(USA TODAY) -- The economy grew more briskly than the government previously estimated in the fourth quarter on stronger consumer spending, among other factors.
The nation's gross domestic product in the last three months of 2013 increased at a 2.6% annual rate, up from the previous estimate of 2.4%, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That's the government's third and final estimate of fourth-quarter growth.
Economists had estimated that today's revision would show 2.7% growth. For all of 2013, the economy grew at a 2.6% rate, slightly more than the 2.5% previously estimated.
Consumer spending increased at a 3.3% annual pace, partly on stronger health care outlays, up from the previous 2.6% estimate. Also, state and local government spending and exports rose more rapidly than initially thought. Business equipment expenditures -- a key gauge of companies' appetite for capital spending -- also picked up more than previously estimated.
"The data suggest that the economy had slightly more momentum than previously thought before it was hit by extreme weather at the start of 2014," says Chris Williamson, chief economist of Markit.
The economy picked up solidly in the second half of the year, but much of the expansion was the result of aggressive stockpiling by businesses. That led to a reduced need for firms to replenish shelves in the current quarter which, along with unusually cold and snowy weather, is expected to yield more tepid growth early in 2014.
But many analysts expect the economy to pick up steam the rest of the year on higher household wealth, lower debt and an accelerating housing recovery.