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Consumers -- who play an important role in shaping economic activity -- spent briskly in October, an encouraging sign that the final quarter of 2004 is getting off to a decent start. Incomes rose sharply.

The Commerce Department reported today that consumer spending went up by 0.7 percent in October, up from 0.6 percent rise in September and the best showing since July.

Growth in Americans' incomes -- the fuel for future spending -- jumped by 0.6 percent in October as the employers added significantly to payrolls. That compared with a 0.2 percent advance in September and marked the biggest increase since May.

The latest snapshot of consumers was better than economists were expecting. They were forecasting a 0.4 percent rise in consumer spending and a 0.5 percent increase in income growth.

The spending and income figures are not adjusted for price changes.

When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending rose by a more moderate -- but still healthy -- 0.3 percent in October.

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