The US economy grew at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the third quarter from the second quarter, the government said Friday in its first estimate for the July-September period.

The expansion was a bit stronger than the 1.9 percent expected by most analysts, and much better than the 1.3 percent gross domestic product growth in the second quarter.

The Commerce Department said third-quarter GDP growth was bolstered by a pick-up in household spending; federal government spending, mostly for defense; and investment in homes as the housing market improved.

The better-than-expected GDP numbers came less than two weeks before the November 6 presidential election.

President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney remained locked in a tight race, with Obama's fate tied in part to how voters judge his record in restoring economic growth