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To counter that and try to invigorate the economy, the Fed recently launched a $600 billion program to buy government bonds. By doing so, the Fed hopes to boost stock prices and make loans cheaper, positive developments that could make people want to spend more.

Even faced with all the negative forces, Americans are still buying. That’s important because their spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of all economic output. With consumers holding up, fears the economy could slip back into a recession have receded.

In the July-September quarter, consumer spending grew at a 2.8 percent pace, the most in nearly four years.

Leading economists in an AP Economy Survey predict consumer spending will grow at a 2.4 percent pace in the October-December quarter. Consumer spending would need to grow by at least twice that pace to translate into the type of robust economic growth to make a big dent in the nation’s unemployment rate.

The nation’s unemployment rate has been stuck at 9.6 percent unemployment rate for the past three months. New projections from Federal Reserve suggest that won’t change much for a few years.

AP Economics Writers Christopher Rugaber and Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.