The nation's economy grew at a healthy 3.9% yearly rate in the third quarter, more than earlier guessed and probably delaying added interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, economists say.

"It would be very surprising if they did anything in December. It's difficult to imagine what might trigger it," said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics, Valhalla, N.Y.

Indeed, he doubts the Fed will cut rates again anytime soon and probably had a vigorous debate last Tuesday before unveiling the third cut in less the two months.

The July-September GDP growth rate was earlier estimated by the Commerce Department at 3.3%. Mr. Shepherdson now thinks growth for the year will be around 4%, slowing to 2.5% next year.

"I imagine the Fed opted for the latest move because they felt it was fairly cheap insurance, but I'm not convinced it was," he said. "They've pushed the stock market to levels that are pretty dangerous."

The stock market's blue-chip indicator, the Dow Jones industrial average, this week registered a new record high for the first time since last July.

"It's interesting to wonder if the Fed would have eased again had they met on Tuesday of this week instead of Tuesday last week," said Nicholas S. Perna, chief economist at Fleet Financial Group.

"Just looking at the GDP data, this is a real case where the Fed has eased ahead of a slowdown," he said. That is not the central bank's typical style.

The business slowdown clearly looms ahead, he noted. "But the Fed has already reacted to it and won't do more on rates unless things turn worse than anticipated," he said-meaning a GDP growth rate of less than 2%.

Softness ahead in business conditions seems a strong bet because of at least three key economic imbalances, he said, none like the inflationary imbalances of previous postwar business cycles.

First is the nation's growing trade deficit. "It is stabilizing with Asia, but I guarantee we will soon be worrying about Latin America," Mr. Perna said.

Second is the consumer imbalance-spending is running at twice the level of income growth. "If all consumers do is cut spending to match income growth the economy will slow," he said. "If they actually decide to save, we could go from slowdown to recession."

Finally, he said, "there is the widening gap between corporate cash flows and corporate investment spending, brought to you by the profit squeeze." Cash flows are flat and business plant and equipment spending is accordingly being pulled in.

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