Consumers and manufacturers helped the GDP grow nearly six percent last quarter, the highest growth rate in as many years. “The surge in U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter depended on more than manufacturing and investment. Households also played their part. Gross domestic product grew at a 5.7 percent annual rate from October through December, more than anticipated and the strongest performance since the third quarter of 2003, figures from the Commerce Department yesterday showed. Consumer spending rose at a 2 percent pace after increasing 2.8 percent the previous three months, reflecting a slowdown in auto sales. Spending cooled after the government’s cash-for-clunkers plan expired in August, ending rebates on trade-ins of older vehicles. Excluding autos, consumer spending increased at a 3 percent rate last quarter, the most in three years, indicating the biggest part of the economy was gaining speed. The increase is being fueled by growing incomes rather than a decrease in savings, signaling household purchases can keep expanding in coming months. Inc. is among companies projecting better times ahead as the world’s largest economy emerges from the recession.”