Republican nominee Mitt Romney has attacked President Obama's handling of the economy and has noted that growth has slowed from last year. The 1.74 percent annual growth rate for the first nine months of 2012 remains slightly behind last year's 1.8 percent growth. That, in turn, trailed 2010's growth of 2.4 percent.
Obama has argued that the economy has been steadily improving. Analysts cautioned, though, that Friday's report offered few signs that economic growth was gaining momentum.
"We suspect that growth will slow a little in the fourth quarter and expect it to remain close to 2 percent next year," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
The economy grew faster last quarter in part because consumer spending rose at a 2 percent annual rate, up from a 1.5 percent rate in the second quarter.
Federal spending surged, mainly because of the sharpest increase in defense spending in more than three years.
The major stock indexes traded in a tight range for much of the day. The Dow Jones industrial average managed a gain of 3.53 points to close at 13,107.21 after spending much of the day in the red.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.03 points to 1,411.94, and the Nasdaq composite rose 1.83 points to 2,987.95.