U.S. economy grew strong 3.5% in third quarter

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NEW YORK — The U.S. economy grew 3.5% in the third quarter — July to September — compared to the same time a year ago, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

It’s the best quarter of growth in two years. The first estimate, published in October, had the economy growing at 2.9% in the third quarter.

It was also the last look at the economy’s performance in the months leading up to the election, when President-elect Donald Trump criticized America’s slow growth on the campaign trail.

Trump vows to grow the economy at 4% a year. The Federal Reserve sees the economy growing around 2% for the next few years.

A major, one-time, increase in soybean exports helped explain why the quarter was so good.

But other categories picked up slack too. Consumer spending, which makes up the majority of activity, rose 3% in the quarter. Business spending on new buildings and projects wasn’t as much of a drag on the economy as it had been in previous quarters. Federal government spending also picked up too.