By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy likely grew at a brisk clip in the fourth quarter as lower gasoline prices buoyed consumer spending, in a show of resilience despite a darkening global outlook. "The consumer did the heavy lifting and I don't think there is any reason to expect that to change in the first half of this year because of the enormous tailwind from lower gasoline prices," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, is expected to have advanced at a pace of at least 4 percent in the fourth quarter - which would be the fastest in four years and an acceleration from the third quarter's 3.2 percent pace. Gasoline prices have plunged 43 percent since June, according to U.S. government data, leaving Americans with more money for discretionary spending.
Free-scoring Australia will seek continental glory in the Asian Cup final on Saturday but South Korea could gatecrash the party in a hugely anticipated decider between two of the region's toughest teams. The Socceroos were runners-up to Japan in 2011 and with a tournament-leading 12 goals, they will start as slight favourites, despite losing 1-0 to South Korea in the group phase. In that game, coach Ange Postecoglou opted to rest talisman Tim Cahill and was robbed of captain Mile Jedinak due to an ankle strain. Cahill netted three times in five matches, including a contender for goal of the tournament with his venomous overhead kick in the quarter-final win over China, and he is likely to be central to the plot in one of the biggest games in Australia's history.