By Vicki Needham - 11/29/12 01:35 PM EST
Economists have expressed concern that strides made last quarter could falter in the October-December period because of trepidation from consumers and businesses over looming tax increases and spending cuts that Congress needs to solve by the Christmas holidays.
Superstorm Sandy also is weighing on growth heading into next year, although some economists expect that repairing the damage could provide a boost to the economy along the East Coast.
Consumer spending increased at a slower 1.4 percent pace in the third quarter, slightly below the 1.5 percent boost in the second quarter.
Orders for long-lasting manufactured goods jumped 8.7 percent compared to a 0.2 percent decrease last quarter.
A Federal Reserve report released Wednesday showed that economic activity has picked up at a modest pace in recent weeks, including consumer spending, hiring and home sales and construction, despite the uncertainty around looming tax and spending issues.
The Beige Book showed expansion across nine of the 12 of the central bank's districts, with the slowdown in New York and Philadelphia attributed to disruptions caused by Sandy, which pummeled the East Coast at the end of October.
Congress and the White House are trying to hatch a plan that would halt most income tax increases and scheduled spending cuts.
Talks are ongoing, but the clock is ticking down toward the holidays.
President Obama said on Wednesday he thinks an agreement on a package can be reached by Christmas.
Any sort of deal would go a long way to providing greater certainty for businesses to invest and consumers to spend, business groups have argued.
Consumers might be concerned, but that didn't stop them from shopping over the long Thanksgiving weekend, a positive sign for retailers for the holiday season.