The US economy grew 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, expanding more strongly than previously thought, the government said Thursday. The Commerce Department revised higher its prior 2.4 percent estimate of gross domestic product growth in the quarter, matching analyst expectations. "The general picture of economic growth remains largely the same," the department said in its third and final GDP estimate. The economy grew 4.1 percent in the third quarter. The upward revision for the October-December quarter reflected new data showing stronger consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of activity in the world's largest economy. In addition, there was smaller private investment in inventories and in intellectual property products, the department said. Personal consumption expenditures in the key year-end holiday shopping season rose 3.3 percent, a solid gain from the 2.6 percent growth previously estimated.