America's economy enjoyed strong growth through 2004 despite signs of braking to 3.1% in the fourth quarter, reports the US Commerce Department. The year as a whole reflected the strongest growth since 1999.

Commerce Department data released Friday, showed Gross Domestic Product up overall by 4.4% in 2004 - compared with 3% in 2003. It signals the healthiest performance since 1999's 4.5 percent.

GDP is seen as the most reliable indicator of economic wellbeing, measuring the value of all goods and services produced within the United States. It does not, of course, take account of imports - mainly from China and the far east - the profligate extent of which now alarms economists across the globe.

Despite the good news on GDP, the Commerce Department also reported another increase in imports during Q4, while exports of goods and services fell at the steepest rate in two years.

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