The US economy grew by a healthy 4%in the fourth quarter, according to latest estimates from the Commerce Department.

The figures were greeted by analysts as a sign of a strong three months, though growth slowed sharply from the 8.2% surge in Q3 and came in below the 4.8% predicted by economists. For the whole of 2003, GDP expanded 3.1% after adjustment for inflation, the best results since 2000.

The fourth-quarter slowdown reflected a sharp decline in consumer spending growth. As the effects of last year's tax cuts wore off, consumer expenditure rose just 2.6% in Q4, down from a 6.9% leap in the previous three months.

However, according to a new consumer sentiment report there are positive signs for the coming months. The University of Michigan's confidence index jumped to 103.8 last month, up from 92.6 in December.

Data sourced from: USA Today; additional content by WARC staff