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Economists had predicted that it would grow at 3% AFP

The US economy grew 0.5% quicker than expected in the third quarter of the year, according to the Commerce Department.

Economists had predicted it would grow at 3% for the three months finishing at the end of September but it instead grew at an annual rate of 3.5%.

Exports of goods and services increased by a rate of 7.8% - a strong, if not unspectacular, sign of a recovery in the American economy - although this was down on the 11.1% that the US had experienced in the second quarter.

Consumer spending was weaker than had been forecaste, though. It was up by just 1.8%, although the decrease in unemployment and declining gas prices should have helped boost this figure.

Severe weather in the first quarter of the year had a detrimental effect on the economy but it has since bounced back strongly with two positive results in the subsequent quarters, making it the strongest consecutive quarters since 2003.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "Today's number represents a return to a healthy-looking trend. The most recent IMF forecasts suggest the US economy will grow 3.1% next year and 3.0% in 2016, and these could be revised further upwards in the coming months."