The U.S. economy expanded at a solid 2.6 percent rate during the last three months of 2018, but growth was significantly lower than it had been earlier in the year, the government says.

For 2018 as a whole, growth was 2.9 percent during the year, a touch below the Trump administration's projected target of 3 percent.

The numbers for the fourth quarter, which were delayed for a month because of the government shutdown, were somewhat higher than many economists had predicted.

Still, they show a clear softening of growth over the year. The economy expanded by a very strong 4.2 percent during the second quarter, which many economists attributed to the 2017 tax cuts.

But after that initial spike, growth slowed to a 3.4 percent pace in the third quarter and then continued to decline at the end of the year. Many economists see growth continuing to soften in 2019, because of weakness in Europe and the waning benefits of the tax cuts.

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