The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) grew 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to an advanced estimate by the U.S. Commerce Department, up from 2.6 percent growth in the third quarter.

Markets had expected the U.S economy to grow 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter last year.

Consumer spending, exports, and nonresidential fixed investment rose in the last quarter of 2010, offsetting a negative contribution from private inventory investment.

“The acceleration in real GDP in the fourth quarter primarily reflected a sharp downturn in imports, an acceleration in PCE, and an upturn in residential fixed investment that were partly offset by downturns in private inventory investment and in federal government spending and a deceleration in nonresidential fixed investment,” the report said.

Consumer expenditure rose 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter, boosted by 21.6 percent increase in spending on durable goods.

Exports of goods and services rose 8.5 percent in Oct-Dec period last year, following a 6.8 percent in the previous quarter.

Besides, imports decreased sharply by 13.6 percent in the quarter, in contrast to an increase of 16.8 percent in Q3 2010.

Overall, the US GDP growth in 2010 stood at 2.9 percent compared with a contraction of 2.6 percent in 2009.