US economy accelerates, lefts Dow to new high

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest reading on U.S. economic growth confirms that the economy is steadily improving, and that it is outshining others around the world.

The government reported today that the economy grew at a brisk five-percent annual rate last quarter, the fastest pace since 2003. It was fueled by consumer and business spending.

The news sent the Dow industrials above the 18,000 mark for the first time today.

Economist Gus Faucher of PNC Financial Services says, "After four years of rocky recovery the U.S. economy is now hitting its stride." He says growth should "remain good next year," with the help of lower gasoline prices.

Today's figures are sure to be closely studied by the Fed. Last week, the central bank ended a policy meeting by saying it would be "patient" in deciding when to raise rates because the economy wasn't yet fully healthy. Unexpectedly strong expansion, though, could escalate pressure on the Fed to raise rates, even though inflation remains well below its 2 percent target.

Also today, the University of Michigan said its index of consumer sentiment found that U.S. consumers were more optimistic about the economy than at any other time in the past eight years. Their mood is being lifted by more jobs and falling gas prices.

%@AP Links

212-c-16-(Martin Crutsinger, AP correspondent)-"into next year"-AP correspondent Martin Crutsinger reports that economists are pretty happy with the day's reports. (23 Dec 2014)

<<CUT *212 (12/23/14)££ 00:16 "into next year"

211-c-10-(Martin Crutsinger, AP correspondent)-"the economic reports"-AP correspondent Martin Crutsinger reports that several economic indicators came out of Washington during the day that generally point to a pretty good economic growth. (23 Dec 2014)

<<CUT *211 (12/23/14)££ 00:10 "the economic reports"

APPHOTO NCWSN301: FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2014 photo, Cynthia Dodd-Simonson shops at a Family Dollar store in Wilmington, N.C. The U.S. economy grew at a sizzling 5 percent annual rate in the July-September period, the fastest since 2003, fueled by higher consumer spending and business investment. (AP Photo/The Star-News, Matt Born, File) (11 Sep 2014)

<<APPHOTO NCWSN301 (09/11/14)££

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