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US Economy Grew Faster Than Expected in 4th Quarter

New U.S. government figures show the world's biggest economy grew faster and stronger than first thought at the end of last year.

The U.S. Commerce Department Friday said the nation's gross domestic product expanded at a 5.9 percent annual rate for the last three months of 2009, boosted by increased business spending. That is 0.2 percent higher than the department estimated last month, and it marks the economy's best quarterly performance in about six years.

The GDP measures all the goods and services produced in a nation, and is the broadest gauge of the economy's health.

Commerce Department officials said the jump in GDP was the result of a bigger-than-expected increase in business inventories and higher spending on equipment and software. U.S. exports also grew more than initially estimated.

Despite the stronger fourth quarter performance, the U.S. economy still shrank 2.4 percent for all of 2009, the worst annual contraction since 1946.

Some information for this report was provided by Bloomberg and Reuters.