The economy grew at afaster-than-expected 5.7 percent clip in the fourth quarter, the fastest pacein roughly six years, according to figures from the Commerce Department.

The agency said its first estimate put fourth-periodGDPgrowth at its fastest pacesince the third quarter of 2003. The economy expanded at a 2.2 percent annualrate in the third quarter.


The agency added that the growth was helped by a sharpslowdown in the pace of inventory liquidation, as business inventories fellsome $33.5 billion in the fourth quarter compared with a plunge of $139.2billion during the period from July-September.

The Commerce Department said the change in inventoriesalone added some 3.39 percentage points to GDP in the last quarter - thelargest contribution percentage dating back to the fourth quarter of 1987.

Over 2009, the economy contracted 2.4 percent, thebiggest decline since 1946.


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