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"Bringing the measurements of critical economic activities into the twenty-first century by
mining tracking data for an understanding of what American consumers were doing yesterday."


Monthly Weighted Composite Consumer Leading Indicator for Past 48 Months



Monthly Weighted Composite Consumer Leading Indicator for Past 48 Months


Last 10 Monthly Index Values
Date:05/201806/201807/201808/201809/201810/201811/201812/201801/201902/2019
Value:97.0396.7997.2899.7195.1494.8998.45100.1897.7597.96


Daily Growth Index Past 60 Days


 Daily Growth Index Past 60 Days(1): 
 
Chart
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 Notes:
  (1) The daily values for the Consumer Metrics Institute's 91-day 'Trailing Quarter' Growth Index over the past 60 days. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions page for a more complete description of our Growth Index.


 


Daily Growth Index -vs- Full GDP Past 48 Months


 Growth Index -vs- Full GDP, Past 4 Years(2): 
 
Chart
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 Notes:
  (2) The Consumer Metrics Institute's 91-day 'Trailing Quarter' Growth Index -vs- BEA's Quarterly Full GDP Growth Rates over past 4 years. The quarterly GDP growth rates are shown as 3-month plateaus in the graph. The Consumer Metrics Institute's Growth Index is plotted as a monthly average.


 


BEA's "Real" GDP -vs- BPP Deflated "Nominal" GDP, Past 4 Years


 BEA "Real" GDP -vs- BPP Deflated "Nominal" GDP, Past 4 Years(3,4): 
 
Chart
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 Notes:
  (3) In the blue line above the BEA's nominal GDP has been deflated using the inflation rate measured by the Billion Prices Project (BPP) index.
  (4) Note that when deflating the line items in the GDP tables from the BEA it is important to treat the "nominal" import and export data as the effective net "real" data -- since there are no offsetting domestic transactions carrying the correspondingly inflated or deflated prices (i.e., the one-sided net impact of inflating imported commodities is "real" to the economy). The net consequences of inflating import prices may become material in times of substantial and sustained trade imbalances.


 


BEA's "Real" GDP -vs- BLS Deflated Per-Capita GDP, Past 4 Years


 BEA "Real" GDP -vs- BLS Deflated Per-Capita GDP, Past 4 Years(5): 
 
Chart
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 Notes:
  (5) Line items in the BEA's nominal GDP are deflated by either the Bureau of Labor Statistic's (BLS) CPI-U index or the BLS PPI index, and reported on a per-capita basis by using Census Bureau projected mid-quarter population data.


 


BEA's "Real" GDP -vs- BLS Deflated Per-Capita Disposable Income, Past 4 Years


 BEA "Real" GDP -vs- BLS Deflated Per-Capita Disposable Income, Past 4 Years(6): 
 
Chart
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 Notes:
  (6) Line items in the BEA's Disposable Personal Income report are deflated by the Bureau of Labor Statistic's (BLS) CPI-U index and reported on a per-capita basis by using Census Bureau projected mid-quarter population data.


 


BEA's "Real" GDP -vs- BLS Deflated Per-Capita Proprietors Income, Past 4 Years


 BEA "Real" GDP -vs- BLS Deflated Per-Capita Proprietor Income, Past 4 Years(7): 
 
Chart
(Click here for best resolution)
 
 Notes:
  (7) The Proprietors' income (with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments) line from the BEA's Disposable Personal Income report are deflated by the Bureau of Labor Statistic's (BLS) CPI-U index and reported on a per-capita basis by using Census Bureau projected mid-quarter population data.


 

Commentary


     
  February 28, 2019 - BEA Estimates 4th Quarter 2018 GDP Growth at 2.58%:

In their first (shutdown delayed) estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.58% annual rate, down -0.78 percentage points (pp) from the prior quarter.

The relatively modest -0.78pp aggregate/net quarter-to-quarter change in the headline number masks a number of significant changes in the underlying line items: annualized inventory growth dropped over two percentage points (-2.20pp) quarter over quarter, foreign trade added +1.77pp to the headline relative to 3Q-2018, and consumer spending growth weakened by -0.46pp quarter-to-quarter. The previously strong growth in governmental spending mostly evaporated (down to an annualized +0.07%), while commercial fixed investments accelerated to a +0.69% annualized growth rate.

Household disposable income was reported to be up +$381 per annum on a quarter over quarter basis, and the household savings rate was reported to be 6.7% (up +0.3pp from the prior quarter).

For this estimate the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 1.96%. During the same quarter (October 2018 through December 2018) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was materially smaller at 1.14% -- a little more than half of the BEA's number. Over estimating inflation results in pessimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been significantly higher at a +3.45% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was reported to be +0.80pp, down -0.10pp from the +0.90% annualized growth rate recorded in the prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was reported to be +1.11pp, down -0.36pp from the prior quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was reported to be down -0.46pp from the prior quarter, marking the second consecutive quarter of weakening growth in consumer spending.

-- The headline number for commercial/private fixed investments was reported to be up +0.48pp, to an annualized +0.69% growth rate.

-- Inventories boosted the headline number by a mere +0.13pp, down -2.20pp from the prior quarter. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity pricing or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The growth in governmental spending weakened significantly, contributing only +0.07% annualized growth to the headline number (down -0.37pp from the prior quarter).

-- The prior quarter's crash in exports reversed with a vengeance, adding +0.19pp to the headline number after removing -0.62pp in the prior quarter.

-- Imports also strengthened materially, subtracting only -0.41% annualized growth from the headline, some +0.96pp better than the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade negatively impacted the headline number by only -0.22pp, a full +1.77pp better than 3Q-2018.

-- The annualized growth in the "real final sales of domestic product" jumped to +2.45% as a consequence of the weakened inventory growth, up +1.42pp from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy (and it excludes the inventory data).

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annualized disposable income grew by $381 quarter over quarter, and $1,129 (2.62%) year over year. The annualized household savings rate was also reported to have increased to 6.7% (up +0.3pp from the prior quarter).




The Numbers

As a quick reminder, the classic definition of the GDP can be summarized with the following equation :

GDP = private consumption + gross private investment + government spending + (exports - imports)


or, as it is commonly expressed in algebraic shorthand :

GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)


In the new report the values for that equation (total dollars, percentage of the total GDP, and contribution to the final percentage growth number) are as follows :

GDP Components Table

Total GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)
Annual $ (trillions) $20.9 = $14.2 + $3.8 + $3.6 + $-0.7
% of GDP 100.00% = 67.97% + 18.07% + 17.12% + -3.16%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.58% = 1.91% + 0.82% + 0.07% + -0.22%


The quarter-to-quarter changes in the contributions that various components make to the overall GDP can be best understood from the table below, which breaks out the component contributions in more detail and over time. In the table below we have split the "C" component into goods and services, split the "I" component into fixed investment and inventories, separated exports from imports, added a line for the BEA's "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product" and listed the quarters in columns with the most current to the left :

Quarterly Changes in % Contributions to GDP

4Q-2018 3Q-2018 2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015
Total GDP Growth 2.58% 3.36% 4.16% 2.22% 2.29% 2.82% 3.00% 1.79% 1.77% 1.92% 2.28% 1.54% 0.41% 0.97% 3.35% 3.32%
Consumer Goods 0.80% 0.90% 1.16% -0.13% 1.42% 0.86% 1.17% 0.40% 0.58% 0.70% 1.01% 0.72% 0.51% 0.91% 1.02% 0.94%
Consumer Services 1.11% 1.47% 1.42% 0.49% 1.22% 0.65% 0.79% 0.82% 1.17% 1.09% 1.29% 0.90% 1.02% 1.00% 1.29% 1.41%
Fixed Investment 0.69% 0.21% 1.10% 1.34% 1.04% 0.44% 0.72% 1.60% 0.28% 0.52% 0.46% 0.31% -0.33% 0.51% 0.63% -0.01%
Inventories 0.13% 2.33% -1.17% 0.27% -0.91% 1.04% 0.23% -0.80% 1.03% -0.59% -0.62% -0.62% -0.70% -0.73% -0.25% 2.16%
Government 0.07% 0.44% 0.43% 0.27% 0.41% -0.18% 0.01% -0.13% 0.03% 0.17% -0.15% 0.60% 0.12% 0.33% 0.70% 0.40%
Exports 0.19% -0.62% 1.12% 0.43% 0.79% 0.42% 0.44% 0.59% -0.44% 0.71% 0.39% -0.31% -0.28% -0.44% 0.48% -0.56%
Imports -0.41% -1.37% 0.10% -0.45% -1.68% -0.41% -0.36% -0.69% -0.88% -0.68% -0.10% -0.06% 0.07% -0.61% -0.49% -1.02%
Real Final Sales 2.45% 1.03% 5.33% 1.95% 3.20% 1.78% 2.77% 2.59 0.74% 2.51% 2.90% 2.16% 1.11% 1.70% 3.60% 1.16%





Summary and Commentary

This initial report for the 4th quarter of 2018 (delayed for a month by the "Great Shutdown") is interesting in a number of ways :

-- The net headline number remains in the "Goldilocks" zone, neither too hot or too cold. In fact, at surface value, it can't justify a change in Federal Reserve policy in any direction. Clearly the Fed is stepping away from tightening because of the condition of the markets, not the condition of the economy.

-- That said, a deeper dive into the numbers reveals a second consecutive quarter of weakening growth in consumer spending. And the increase in the household savings rate explains to a large extent where any additional disposable income is actually going -- into savings in lieu of spending.

-- The unsustainable growth in inventories that propped up last quarter's gaudy headline has vanished. But it has been largely replaced by a dramatic (and equally unsustainable) swing in foreign trade.

We don't pretend to understand the intricacies of household or consumer psychology. However, our own data suggests that, from time to time, consumer sentiment and spending can be suppressed by FUD ("Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt"). And the US political stage is currently generating a lot of FUD. How that FUD is damaging the household/consumer psyche -- and hence the economy -- will become better understood over the next few quarters.
 
     
     
  December 21, 2018 - BEA Revised 3rd Quarter 2018 GDP Slightly Downward to 3.36%:

In their third and final estimate of the US GDP for the third quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +3.36% annual rate, down -0.14% from their previous estimate and down -0.80% from the prior quarter.

Although the revisions can be characterized as statistical noise, they generally reinforce several key movements in the economy since the second quarter: consumer spending, commercial spending and exports were revised lower, while inventories were yet again revised upward. As a consequence, the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy (the "real final sales of domestic product") was revised downward by another -0.20% (to only +1.03%), and it is now down by well over four percent (-4.30%) from the prior quarter.

The total headline contribution from consumer spending was revised downward another -0.08%, and it is now down -1.06% from the prior quarter. The growth in commercial fixed investment was revised downward -0.04%, while government spending was unchanged. Foreign trade was revised a combined -0.08% downward, and it is now removing -1.99% from the headline number (off -3.21% from the prior quarter).

And continuing the prior trend, the headline number has been propped up even more by the most fickle of the BEA's data items: inventories; which are now adding +3.50% more to the headline than they did during the prior quarter. Meanwhile, household disposable income and the household savings rates were left unchanged.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 1.50%. During the same quarter (July 2018 through September 2018) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was somewhat higher at 1.83%. Under estimating inflation results in optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been somewhat lower at a +3.09% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was revised downward -0.10% to +0.90%, and it is now down -0.26% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was revised upward +0.02% to +1.47%, up +0.05% from last quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was revised downward -0.08% to +2.37%, down -0.21% from the prior quarter.

-- Commercial private fixed investments was revised downward -0.04%, and it is now contributing +0.21 to the headline number. This remains down -0.89% from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories boosted the headline number by +2.33%, up +0.06% from the previous estimate and up +3.50% from the prior quarter. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity pricing or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The growth in governmental spending was left unchanged, and it is contributing +0.44% to the headline number (and it is up only +0.01% from the prior quarter).

-- The exports crash was even worse than previously reported, and it is now subtracting -0.62% from the headline number, down -0.07% from the previous report and -1.74% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports were largely unchanged in this report, subtracting -1.37% from the headline number (down -0.01% from the previous report and down -1.44% from the prior quarter). In aggregate, foreign trade negatively impacted the headline number by nearly two percent (-1.99%).

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" growth was revised downward by -0.20% to +1.03%, and it is down over four percent (-4.30%) from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the inventory data.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was unchanged, and it is up $169 per annum from a revised prior quarter. The household savings rate was also reported to be unchanged at 6.3% (down -0.4% from the revised prior quarter).




The Numbers, as Revised

As a quick reminder, the classic definition of the GDP can be summarized with the following equation :

GDP = private consumption + gross private investment + government spending + (exports - imports)


or, as it is commonly expressed in algebraic shorthand :

GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)


In the new report the values for that equation (total dollars, percentage of the total GDP, and contribution to the final percentage growth number) are as follows :

GDP Components Table

Total GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)
Annual $ (trillions) $20.7 = $14.1 + $3.7 + $3.6 + $-0.7
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.01% + 17.96% + 17.19% + -3.16%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.36% = 2.37% + 2.54% + 0.44% + -1.99%


The quarter-to-quarter changes in the contributions that various components make to the overall GDP can be best understood from the table below, which breaks out the component contributions in more detail and over time. In the table below we have split the "C" component into goods and services, split the "I" component into fixed investment and inventories, separated exports from imports, added a line for the BEA's "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product" and listed the quarters in columns with the most current to the left :

Quarterly Changes in % Contributions to GDP

3Q-2018 2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015
Total GDP Growth 3.36% 4.16% 2.22% 2.29% 2.82% 3.00% 1.79% 1.77% 1.92% 2.28% 1.54% 0.41% 0.97% 3.35% 3.32%
Consumer Goods 0.90% 1.16% -0.13% 1.42% 0.86% 1.17% 0.40% 0.58% 0.70% 1.01% 0.72% 0.51% 0.91% 1.02% 0.94%
Consumer Services 1.47% 1.42% 0.49% 1.22% 0.65% 0.79% 0.82% 1.17% 1.09% 1.29% 0.90% 1.02% 1.00% 1.29% 1.41%
Fixed Investment 0.21% 1.10% 1.34% 1.04% 0.44% 0.72% 1.60% 0.28% 0.52% 0.46% 0.31% -0.33% 0.51% 0.63% -0.01%
Inventories 2.33% -1.17% 0.27% -0.91% 1.04% 0.23% -0.80% 1.03% -0.59% -0.62% -0.62% -0.70% -0.73% -0.25% 2.16%
Government 0.44% 0.43% 0.27% 0.41% -0.18% 0.01% -0.13% 0.03% 0.17% -0.15% 0.60% 0.12% 0.33% 0.70% 0.40%
Exports -0.62% 1.12% 0.43% 0.79% 0.42% 0.44% 0.59% -0.44% 0.71% 0.39% -0.31% -0.28% -0.44% 0.48% -0.56%
Imports -1.37% 0.10% -0.45% -1.68% -0.41% -0.36% -0.69% -0.88% -0.68% -0.10% -0.06% 0.07% -0.61% -0.49% -1.02%
Real Final Sales 1.03% 5.33% 1.95% 3.20% 1.78% 2.77% 2.59 0.74% 2.51% 2.90% 2.16% 1.11% 1.70% 3.60% 1.16%





Summary and Commentary

Although none of the revisions in the report were material by themselves, their combined net effect reinforced the previous report's story -- that the growth rates for consumer and commercial spending was weakening, with inventories growing as a consequence. Additionally, foreign trade is now removing another -3.21% from the headline, quarter over quarter.

The BEA tells us that the key number in any of their GDP reports is the "real final sales of domestic product." That number is now reported to be down an alarming -4.30% from the prior quarter.

As we have mentioned before, this report shows an economy that appears to be either coasting or at an inflection point. The results from the fourth quarter should tell us much more about what direction it is heading.
 
     
     
  November 28, 2018 - BEA Leaves 3rd Quarter 2018 GDP Unchanged at 3.50%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the third quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +3.50% annual rate, up +0.01% from their previous estimate but still down -0.66% from the prior quarter.

The +0.01% improvement in the headline number masks a troublesome shift in the composition of that growth from consumer spending to even more inventory growth. The headline contribution from consumer spending on goods and services weakened by -0.24% and the growth is now lower than the prior quarter. Offsetting that was an upward revision to inventories (+0.20%), which are now reported to be growing at a +2.27% annualized rate. As a consequence, the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy (the "real final sales of domestic product") was revised downward by -0.19%, now dropping by over four percent (-4.10%) from the prior quarter.

The growth in commercial fixed investment was revised upward +0.29%, while government spending and foreign trade was revised a combined -0.24% downward. Foreign trade is now removing -1.91% from the headline number, off -1.79% from the prior quarter.

Again it is worth noting that the headline number has been propped up by the most fickle of the BEA's data items: inventories; which added +3.44% more to the headline than they did during the prior quarter.

Household disposable income was revised downward by -$86 per annum, and the household savings rate was revised downward to 6.3%, and is now down -0.2% from the prior quarter.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 1.41%. During the same quarter (July 2018 through September 2018) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was somewhat higher at 1.83%. Under estimating inflation results in optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been lower at a +3.14% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was revised downward -0.20% to +1.00%, down -0.16% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was revised downward -0.04% to +1.44%, up +0.03% from last quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was revised downward -0.24% to +2.45%, down -0.13% from the prior quarter.

-- Commercial private fixed investments was revised upward +0.29%, contributing +0.25 to the headline number. This remains down -0.85% from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories boosted the headline number by +2.27%, up +0.20% from the previous estimate and up +3.44% from the prior quarter. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The growth in governmental spending was revised downward by -0.12%, and is now contributing +0.44% to the headline number (and up only +0.01% from the prior quarter).

-- The exports crash worsened, and it is now subtracting -0.55% from the headline number, down -0.10% from the previous report and -1.67% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports were largely unchanged in this report, subtracting -1.36% from the headline number (down -0.02% from the previous report and down -1.46% from the prior quarter). In aggregate, foreign trade negatively impacted the headline number by nearly two percent (-1.91%).

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" growth was revised downward by -0.19% to +1.23%, and it is down over four percent (-4.10%) from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the inventory data.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was revised downward -$86, but is still up $169 per annum from a revised prior quarter. The household savings rate was reported to be 6.3% (down -0.4% from the revised prior quarter).




The Numbers

As a quick reminder, the classic definition of the GDP can be summarized with the following equation :

GDP = private consumption + gross private investment + government spending + (exports - imports)


or, as it is commonly expressed in algebraic shorthand :

GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)


In the new report the values for that equation (total dollars, percentage of the total GDP, and contribution to the final percentage growth number) are as follows :

GDP Components Table

Total GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)
Annual $ (trillions) $20.7 = $14.1 + $3.7 + $3.6 + $-0.7
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.01% + 17.95% + 17.19% + -3.15%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.50% = 2.45% + 2.52% + 0.44% + -1.91%


The quarter-to-quarter changes in the contributions that various components make to the overall GDP can be best understood from the table below, which breaks out the component contributions in more detail and over time. In the table below we have split the "C" component into goods and services, split the "I" component into fixed investment and inventories, separated exports from imports, added a line for the BEA's "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product" and listed the quarters in columns with the most current to the left :

Quarterly Changes in % Contributions to GDP

3Q-2018 2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015
Total GDP Growth 3.49% 4.16% 2.22% 2.29% 2.82% 3.00% 1.79% 1.77% 1.92% 2.28% 1.54% 0.41% 0.97% 3.35% 3.32%
Consumer Goods 1.20% 1.16% -0.13% 1.42% 0.86% 1.17% 0.40% 0.58% 0.70% 1.01% 0.72% 0.51% 0.91% 1.02% 0.94%
Consumer Services 1.49% 1.42% 0.49% 1.22% 0.65% 0.79% 0.82% 1.17% 1.09% 1.29% 0.90% 1.02% 1.00% 1.29% 1.41%
Fixed Investment -0.04% 1.10% 1.34% 1.04% 0.44% 0.72% 1.60% 0.28% 0.52% 0.46% 0.31% -0.33% 0.51% 0.63% -0.01%
Inventories 2.07% -1.17% 0.27% -0.91% 1.04% 0.23% -0.80% 1.03% -0.59% -0.62% -0.62% -0.70% -0.73% -0.25% 2.16%
Government 0.56% 0.43% 0.27% 0.41% -0.18% 0.01% -0.13% 0.03% 0.17% -0.15% 0.60% 0.12% 0.33% 0.70% 0.40%
Exports -0.45% 1.12% 0.43% 0.79% 0.42% 0.44% 0.59% -0.44% 0.71% 0.39% -0.31% -0.28% -0.44% 0.48% -0.56%
Imports -1.34% 0.10% -0.45% -1.68% -0.41% -0.36% -0.69% -0.88% -0.68% -0.10% -0.06% 0.07% -0.61% -0.49% -1.02%
Real Final Sales 1.42% 5.33% 1.95% 3.20% 1.78% 2.77% 2.59 0.74% 2.51% 2.90% 2.16% 1.11% 1.70% 3.60% 1.16%





Summary and Commentary

The key number from this report is the BEA's own "bottom line" for the report, the "real final sales of domestic product," which is now reported to be down more than 4% from the prior quarter. This revision simply reinforced the prior report's story -- that the growth rate for consumer spending was weakening, with inventories growing as a consequence. Global economics and politics also are not helping, with trade now removing another 3% from the headline quarter over quarter.

And it is difficult to get a handle on household incomes and savings, which have been recently revised to the point that it is hard to trust the numbers any more.

In a sense this report was even more of the same, an economy clearly in transition from the happy news reported for 2Q-2018.
 
     
     
  October 26, 2018 - BEA Estimates 3rd Quarter 2018 GDP Growth at 3.49%:

In their first ("preliminary") estimate of the US GDP for the third quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +3.49% annual rate, down -0.67% from the prior quarter.

The minor change in the headline number masks significant and worrisome turmoil in the details. In fact, the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy (the "real final sales of domestic product") collapsed, dropping nearly four percent (-3.91%) from the prior quarter.

The red ink relative to the last report is substantial: commercial fixed investment is now contracting (at a -0.04% annualized rate, and down -1.14% from the prior quarter), exports are also now contracting (at a -0.45% rate, down -1.57% from the prior quarter), and imports are now removing -1.34% from the headline number (down -1.44% from the prior quarter).

It could be argued that the headline number has been propped up by the most fickle of the BEA's data items: inventories; which added +3.24% more to the headline than they did during the prior quarter.

In contrast, the consumer sector was steady (with the growth in goods and services spending up +0.11% in total from the prior quarter), as was governmental spending -- adding +0.13% more to the headline than during the prior quarter.

Household disposable income was reported to be up by $180 per annum, and the household savings rate dropped only slightly from the prior quarter to 6.4%.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 1.39%. During the same quarter (July 2018 through September 2018) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was somewhat higher at 1.83%. Under estimating inflation results in optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been lower at a +3.11% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was +1.20%, up +0.04% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was +1.49%, up +0.07% from last quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.69%.

-- Commercial private fixed investments contracted, subtracting -0.04% from the headline number. This was down -1.14% from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories boosted the headline number by +2.01%, up +3.24% from the prior quarter. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The growth in governmental spending was up, adding +0.56% to the headline number (and up +0.13% from the prior quarter).

-- Exports crashed, subtracting -0.45% from the headline number, down -1.57% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports returned to normal form, subtracting -1.34% from the headline number (down -1.44% from the prior quarter). In aggregate, foreign trade impacted the headline number by -1.79%.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" growth dropped -3.91% to +1.42%. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the inventory data.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable was reported to have grown $180 per annum from the prior quarter. The household savings rate was reported to be 6.4% (down -0.4% from the prior quarter).




The Numbers

As a quick reminder, the classic definition of the GDP can be summarized with the following equation :

GDP = private consumption + gross private investment + government spending + (exports - imports)


or, as it is commonly expressed in algebraic shorthand :

GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)


In the new report the values for that equation (total dollars, percentage of the total GDP, and contribution to the final percentage growth number) are as follows :

GDP Components Table

Total GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)
Annual $ (trillions) $20.7 = $14.1 + $3.7 + $3.6 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.09% + 17.84% + 17.19% + -3.13%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.49% = 2.69% + 2.03% + 0.56% + -1.79%


The quarter-to-quarter changes in the contributions that various components make to the overall GDP can be best understood from the table below, which breaks out the component contributions in more detail and over time. In the table below we have split the "C" component into goods and services, split the "I" component into fixed investment and inventories, separated exports from imports, added a line for the BEA's "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product" and listed the quarters in columns with the most current to the left :

Quarterly Changes in % Contributions to GDP

3Q-2018 2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015
Total GDP Growth 3.49% 4.16% 2.22% 2.29% 2.82% 3.00% 1.79% 1.77% 1.92% 2.28% 1.54% 0.41% 0.97% 3.35% 3.32%
Consumer Goods 1.20% 1.16% -0.13% 1.42% 0.86% 1.17% 0.40% 0.58% 0.70% 1.01% 0.72% 0.51% 0.91% 1.02% 0.94%
Consumer Services 1.49% 1.42% 0.49% 1.22% 0.65% 0.79% 0.82% 1.17% 1.09% 1.29% 0.90% 1.02% 1.00% 1.29% 1.41%
Fixed Investment -0.04% 1.10% 1.34% 1.04% 0.44% 0.72% 1.60% 0.28% 0.52% 0.46% 0.31% -0.33% 0.51% 0.63% -0.01%
Inventories 2.07% -1.17% 0.27% -0.91% 1.04% 0.23% -0.80% 1.03% -0.59% -0.62% -0.62% -0.70% -0.73% -0.25% 2.16%
Government 0.56% 0.43% 0.27% 0.41% -0.18% 0.01% -0.13% 0.03% 0.17% -0.15% 0.60% 0.12% 0.33% 0.70% 0.40%
Exports -0.45% 1.12% 0.43% 0.79% 0.42% 0.44% 0.59% -0.44% 0.71% 0.39% -0.31% -0.28% -0.44% 0.48% -0.56%
Imports -1.34% 0.10% -0.45% -1.68% -0.41% -0.36% -0.69% -0.88% -0.68% -0.10% -0.06% 0.07% -0.61% -0.49% -1.02%
Real Final Sales 1.42% 5.33% 1.95% 3.20% 1.78% 2.77% 2.59 0.74% 2.51% 2.90% 2.16% 1.11% 1.70% 3.60% 1.16%





Summary and Commentary

After last quarter's happy news, this report is somewhat sobering. The headline still looks good, but a wild swing in inventories has masked material deterioration in private fixed investments (in both commercial and residential construction) and foreign trade.

Households, on the other hand, seem to be doing better -- as evidenced by steady consumer spending on both goods and services.

This report is very different from the good news and solid numbers reported for the second quarter of 2018. 3Q-2018 certainly looks more like an economy in transition than what was reported for 2Q-2018. And we are always a little nervous when inventory growth is providing more than half of the headline number.
 
     
     
  September 27, 2018 - BEA Leaves 2nd Quarter 2018 GDP Growth Essentially Unchanged at 4.16%:

In their third (and final) estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +4.16% annual rate, down an inconsequential -0.07% from their previous estimate and but still up +1.94% from the prior quarter.

None of the reported revisions were material. The growth rate for consumer spending for goods was revised upward by +0.04%, and there was a -0.01% decline in the growth rate of consumer spending on services. The contraction rate for inventories worsened (-0.20%) to -1.17%, while the growth rate in commercial fixed investment rose by +0.03% to +1.10%. The growth rate for imports improved to +0.10%.

Household disposable income was revised downward by $1 per annum, and the household savings rate was unchanged from the previous report at 6.8%.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 3.31%. During the same quarter (April 2018 through June 2018) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was significantly lower at 2.26%. Over estimating inflation results in pessimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been much higher at a +5.36% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was revised upward +0.04% to +1.16% (up +1.29% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services dropped -0.01% to +1.42%. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.58%, up over 2% (+2.22%) from 1Q-2018.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was +1.10%, down -0.24% from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories subtracted -1.17% from the headline number. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The growth in governmental spending was up slightly, adding +0.43% to the headline number (and up +0.16% from the prior quarter).

-- Exports contributed +1.12% to the headline number, up +0.69% from the prior quarter.

-- In a continuation of inverted form, imports added +0.10% to the headline number, up +0.55% from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade boosted the headline number by +1.22%.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" growth was revised upward to +5.33%, up a dramatic +3.38% from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the inventory data.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable was down $1 per year from the previous report. The household savings rate was reported to be unchanged at 6.8%.




The Numbers, as Revised

As a quick reminder, the classic definition of the GDP can be summarized with the following equation :

GDP = private consumption + gross private investment + government spending + (exports - imports)


or, as it is commonly expressed in algebraic shorthand :

GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)


In the new report the values for that equation (total dollars, percentage of the total GDP, and contribution to the final percentage growth number) are as follows :

GDP Components Table

Total GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)
Annual $ (trillions) $20.4 = $13.9 + $3.6 + $3.5 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.00% = 67.98% + 17.54% + 17.18% + -2.69%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 4.16% = 2.58% + -0.07% + 0.43% + 1.22%


The quarter-to-quarter changes in the contributions that various components make to the overall GDP can be best understood from the table below, which breaks out the component contributions in more detail and over time. In the table below we have split the "C" component into goods and services, split the "I" component into fixed investment and inventories, separated exports from imports, added a line for the BEA's "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product" and listed the quarters in columns with the most current to the left :

Quarterly Changes in % Contributions to GDP

2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015
Total GDP Growth 4.16% 2.22% 2.29% 2.82% 3.00% 1.79% 1.77% 1.92% 2.28% 1.54% 0.41% 0.97% 3.35% 3.32%
Consumer Goods 1.16% -0.13% 1.42% 0.86% 1.17% 0.40% 0.58% 0.70% 1.01% 0.72% 0.51% 0.91% 1.02% 0.94%
Consumer Services 1.42% 0.49% 1.22% 0.65% 0.79% 0.82% 1.17% 1.09% 1.29% 0.90% 1.02% 1.00% 1.29% 1.41%
Fixed Investment 1.10% 1.34% 1.04% 0.44% 0.72% 1.60% 0.28% 0.52% 0.46% 0.31% -0.33% 0.51% 0.63% -0.01%
Inventories -1.17% 0.27% -0.91% 1.04% 0.23% -0.80% 1.03% -0.59% -0.62% -0.62% -0.70% -0.73% -0.25% 2.16%
Government 0.43% 0.27% 0.41% -0.18% 0.01% -0.13% 0.03% 0.17% -0.15% 0.60% 0.12% 0.33% 0.70% 0.40%
Exports 1.12% 0.43% 0.79% 0.42% 0.44% 0.59% -0.44% 0.71% 0.39% -0.31% -0.28% -0.44% 0.48% -0.56%
Imports 0.10% -0.45% -1.68% -0.41% -0.36% -0.69% -0.88% -0.68% -0.10% -0.06% 0.07% -0.61% -0.49% -1.02%
Real Final Sales 5.33% 1.95% 3.20% 1.78% 2.77% 2.59 0.74% 2.51% 2.90% 2.16% 1.11% 1.70% 3.60% 1.16%





Summary and Commentary

All of the revisions in this report can be characterized as statistical noise. Nonetheless, a headline number with +4.16% growth is very good, confirming that the stimulus expected from the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017" has materialized. And the BEA's own "bottom line" Real Final Sales growth was reported to be +5.33%.

As we have mentioned before, this kind of growth signals that the Fed's accommodations over the past decade are certainly no longer needed. And if the growth persists in this range for another quarter or two, significant tightening might be warranted to prevent the economy (and wage-price inflation) from overheating.
 
     


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