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US 3Q economic growth raised to 3.3%

[WASHINGTON] The US economy grew faster than initially thought in the third quarter, notching its quickest pace in three years, as increases in business investment in inventories and equipment offset a moderation in consumer spending.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 3.3 per cent annual rate in the third quarter also boosted by a rebound in government spending, the Commerce Department said in its second estimate on Wednesday. That was the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2014 and a pickup from the second quarter's 3.1 per cent rate.

The economy was previously reported to have grown at a 3.0 per cent pace in the July-September period. It was the first time since 2014 that the economy experienced growth of 3 per cent or more for two straight quarters.

The growth pace, however, likely exaggerates the health of the economy as inventories, goods yet to be sold, contributed 0.8 percentage point to third-quarter GDP growth - up from the previously reported 0.73 percentage point.

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Excluding inventory investment, the economy grew at a 2.5 per cent rate. When measured from the income side, output also expanded at a 2.5 per cent rate. The government said after-tax corporate profits surged at a 5.8 per cent rate last quarter after rising at only a 0.1 per cent pace in the second quarter.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected that third-quarter GDP growth would be raised to a 3.2 per cent rate.

The economic recovery since the 2007-2009 recession is now in its eighth year and showing little signs of fatigue. The economy is being powered by a tightening labor market, which has largely maintained a strong performance that started during former President Barack Obama's first term.

Economists see a modest boost to growth from efforts by President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress to push through a broad package of tax cuts, including slashing the corporate income tax rate to 20 per cent from 35 per cent.

Mr Trump wants lower taxes to lift annual GDP growth to 3 per cent on a sustained basis. The fiscal stimulus would, however, come when the economy is at full employment.

Businesses accumulated inventories at a US$39.0 billion pace in the third quarter, instead of the previously reported US$35.8 billion rate. That suggests inventories could be a drag on growth in the fourth quarter.

Data on Tuesday showed a drop in wholesale and retail inventories in October, leading economists to slash their fourth-quarter GDP growth estimates.

Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the US economy, was revised to a 2.3 per cent rate in the third quarter from the previously reported 2.4 per cent pace. Consumer spending increased at a brisk 3.3 per cent rate in the second quarter.

The deceleration in consumer spending likely reflects the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which struck Texas and Florida in early August and late September. Spending also is being constrained by sluggish wage growth, which is forcing households to dip into their savings to fund purchases.

The saving rate was lowered to 3.3 per cent in the third quarter from the previously reported 3.4 per cent.

Growth in business investment in equipment was raised to a 10.4 per cent pace, the fastest growth pace in three years, from the previously reported 8.6 per cent rate.

Investment in nonresidential structures fell at a 6.8 per cent pace in the third quarter, the biggest drop since the fourth quarter of 2015, instead of the previously estimated 5.2 per cent rate.

Growth in government spending was raised to a 0.4 per cent rate. Government outlays were previously reported to have declined at a 0.1 percent pace in the third quarter. Government spending had contracted for two consecutive quarters.