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By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. economic growth slowed sharply in the fourth quarter as weak business spending and a wider trade deficit offset the fastest pace of consumer spending since 2006. The slowdown followed two back-to-back quarters of bullish growth and is likely to be short-lived given the enormous tailwind from lower gasoline prices. Other data on Friday showed consumer sentiment jumped to an 11-year high in January. Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.6 percent annual pace after the third quarter's spectacular 5 percent rate, the Commerce Department said in its first fourth-quarter GDP snapshot on Friday Most economists believe fundamentals in the United States are strong enough to cushion the blow on growth from weakening overseas economies.
Top seed Serena Williams' coach has dismissed the American's decade-long, 15-0 winning streak against Maria Sharapova as irrelevant ahead of the arch-rivals' blockbuster Australian Open final on Saturday. The final will pit the world's two best players, both in sizzling form, against one another in a dream Grand Slam decider, although the second seeded Sharapova faces questions over her staggering inability to notch a win over Williams since 2004. The Russian's overall losing record against Williams is 16-2, including a crushing straight sets win in the 2007 Australian final, and her last 15 meetings with the 18-time Grand Slam champion have ended in defeat. "Every sequence has to end, just ask Nadal," he told AFP, referring to Czech Tomas Berdych's quarter-final victory over Rafael Nadal this week to end a record-equalling 17-match losing streak against the Spanish great.