NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The U.S. economy grew at a slightly faster pace than previously estimated during the third quarter, as companies boosted inventories and imports slowed.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis' final estimate, seasonally adjusted real gross domestic product rose 2.6%, slightly higher than its previous estimate of 2.5%. Economists were expecting a higher revision to 2.7%, according to consensus estimates from

The U.S. economy expanded 3.7% in the first quarter, then sharply decelerated during the second, growing at a pace of 1.7%. That sparked fears of a double-dip recession. The acceleration of growth in the third quarter has helped abate those concerns.

Revisions in the final estimate included a faster than expected rise in business inventories. Private businesses increased inventories $121.4 billion in the third quarter, following increases of $68.8 billion in the second quarter and $44.1 billion in the first.

Real final sales of domestic product, which excludes the impact of a build-up in inventories, increased 0.9% in the third quarter, the same increase as in the second.

Consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of GDP, rose 2.4%, less than previously estimated 2.6%.

Exports jumped 6.8% in the third quarter, after rising 9.8% in the previous quarter, helped by a weaker dollar.

Inflation levels captured by the GDP report remained subdued. The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, increased 0.7% in the third quarter, 0.1 percentage point less than the second estimate. The index increased 0.1% in the second quarter.

Excluding food and energy prices, the price index for gross domestic purchases increased 0.4% in the third quarter, compared with an increase of 0.8% in the second.

Recent economic data has been better-than-expected, encouraging hopes for stronger GDP growth in the fourth quarter. Consumer confidence has improved and initial reports point to a strong holiday shopping season.

The $858 billion tax deal, which extends Bush tax cuts across the board for another two years and reauthorizes the extended employment benefits program, is also expected to stimulate consumer spending and business investment.

The deal has prompted several economists to raise their estimates for GDP in 2011. Goldman Sachs has called 2011 the "Year of the U.S.A"

Stocks were flat after the report.

-- Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

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