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U.S. Economy Grew At 3.6 Percent In Third Quarter; Jobless Claims Dip

The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.6 percent in the third quarter, according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That's a rise from the second quarter, when the real gross domestic product tallied a 2.5 percent gain.

The pace of growth is the fastest since the first quarter of 2012, which clocked in at 3.7 percent.

Thursday's release is the "second" estimate for the third quarter, following up on data released in November that put the GDP's increase at 2.8 percent.

But the increase belies some potentially troubling signs. As The Associated Press notes, "Almost the entire third-quarter revision was due to a big jump in stockpiles. Consumer spending, the lifeblood of the economy, was the weakest in nearly four years."

It adds:

"When excluding inventories, the economy grew at a 1.9 percent rate in the third quarter, down from 2.1 percent in the spring. That's in line with the same subpar rate that the economy has seen since the Great Recession ended four years ago."

Other factors in the revision included a rise in imports that was smaller in the third quarter than in the second, as well as an increase in spending by state and local governments.

In other economic news, the number of people filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance fell below 300,000 last week, to 298,000, the Employment and Training Administration said Thursday.

The agency says the seasonally adjusted data reflect "a decrease of 23,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 321,000."

As was the case after cheery U.S. economic news about hiring and international trade emerged earlier this week, the stock market seems to be set for another dismal day, as the increases drive investors to fear that the Federal Reserve might consider tapering its monthly stimulus spending that was meant to prop up the economy.

"The markets are worried about the fact that strong numbers from the States could perhaps spark tapering in December," Julian Chillingworth, chief investment officer at Rathbone Brothers in London, tells Bloomberg.

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