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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:11/201612/201601/201702/201703/201704/201705/201706/201707/201708/2017
Value:95.1994.7094.4990.9992.4696.9593.6489.6589.0187.02


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
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 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


     
  August 30, 2017 - BEA Revises 2nd Quarter 2017 GDP Growth Upward to 3.04%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +3.04% annual rate, up +0.48% from their previous estimate and up +1.80% from the prior quarter.

Consumer spending was revised upward to a +2.27% annualized growth rate (up +0.34% from the previous estimate and up +0.95% from the prior quarter). The inventory contribution continued to be essentially neutral (+0.02), while the previous growth in commercial fixed investment was revised upward (to +0.58%). Governmental spending was revised back into contraction (-0.05%), and the growth rates for both exports (+0.45%) and imports (-0.23%) moderated.

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes inventories) was revised upward to +3.02%, up +0.32 from the prior quarter.

Real annualized household disposable income was revised upward $6 to $39,292 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate was again revised downward by -0.1% to 3.7% (down -0.2% from the prior quarter).

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 0.96%. During the same quarter (April 2017 through June 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was a minuscule 0.06%. 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 materially higher at a very healthy +3.96% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was reported to be +1.27% (up +1.12% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services also strengthened to +1.00% (although that remained down -0.17% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.27%, up +0.95% from 1Q-2017.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was revised upward to +0.58%, although that was still down a material -0.69% from the prior quarter. That continued to reflect a reported contraction in residential construction.

-- Inventory continued to be neutral (at +0.02%). This was a +1.48% improvement 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.

-- Governmental spending was reported to be contracting slightly, at a -0.05% rate. This was a +0.06% improvement from the prior quarter.

-- Exports contributed +0.45% to the headline number, down -0.40% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports deducted -0.23% from the headline, which was up +0.40% from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade added +0.22% to the headline number.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" grew at an annualized 3.02%, up +0.32% 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 slightly (by $6 per annum). At the same time the household savings rate was reported to have dropped another -0.1% (now down -0.2% from the prior quarter). It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.13% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.77% growth rate over the past 36 quarters.




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) $19.2 = $13.3 + $3.2 + $3.3 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 69.15% + 16.49% + 17.31% + -2.94%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.04% = 2.27% + 0.60% + -0.05% + 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

2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014
Total GDP Growth 3.04% 1.24% 1.76% 2.79% 2.25% 0.57% 0.48% 1.63% 2.74% 3.24% 2.01% 5.20% 4.61% -0.92%
Consumer Goods 1.27% 0.15% 1.03% 0.69% 1.30% 0.46% 0.63% 0.95% 0.99% 0.93% 1.26% 1.01% 1.38% 0.52%
Consumer Services 1.00% 1.17% 0.97% 1.23% 1.28% 0.77% 1.17% 0.90% 1.04% 1.56% 2.10% 1.64% 0.96% 0.74%
Fixed Investment 0.58% 1.27% 0.28% 0.25% 0.22% -0.05% -0.41% 0.55% 0.77% 0.67% 0.04% 1.45% 1.56% 0.76%
Inventories 0.02% -1.46% 1.06% 0.16% -0.67% -0.64% -0.68% -0.22% -0.63% 1.45% -0.26% 0.44% 0.91% -1.69%
Government -0.05% -0.11% 0.03% 0.09% -0.16% 0.32% 0.05% 0.21% 0.60% 0.27% -0.11% 0.39% 0.20% -0.11%
Exports 0.45% 0.85% -0.47% 0.74% 0.32% -0.33% -0.29% -0.51% 0.47% -0.59% 0.65% 0.09% 1.22% -0.35%
Imports -0.23% -0.63% -1.14% -0.37% -0.04% 0.04% 0.01% -0.25% -0.50% -1.05% -1.67% 0.18% -1.62% -0.79%
Real Final Sales 3.02% 2.70% 0.70% 2.63% 2.92% 1.21% 1.16% 1.85% 3.37% 1.79% 2.27% 4.76% 3.70% 0.77%





Summary and Commentary

At face value this report records an economy in a state of healthy growth. The notable takeaways from this report are :

-- Consumer spending provided 2.27% to the headline number, more than two thirds of the total growth.

-- Commercial fixed investment was revised upward significantly to +0.58%, although there continued to be a contraction in residential construction.

-- Inventories did not distort the headline.

-- Exports and Imports continue to provide a net positive (+0.22%) contribution to the headline number.

Per this report the US economy is in a very pleasant zone -- slightly over the Goldilocks +3% number that is neither too cool nor too hot. Consumer spending has rebounded into normal ranges. It would appear that US consumers have shrugged off the unrelenting domestic political drama and moved on to more normal spending patterns -- although they are dipping into savings to do so. In short, this report is certainly good enough to provide the Federal Reserve with the data needed to justify moving forward with their "normalization" campaign.
 
     
     
  July 28, 2017 - BEA Estimates 2nd Quarter 2017 GDP Growth At 2.56%:

In their first (preliminary) estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.56% annual rate, up +1.14% from a downward revised first quarter.

Consumer spending rebounded, growing at a +1.93% annualized rate during the quarter, up +1.18% from the prior quarter and very similar to the fourth quarter of 2016. The inventory contraction of the prior quarter essentially disappeared (-0.02%), as did the previous robust growth in commercial fixed investment (at only +0.36%). Governmental spending rose slightly (+0.12%), reversing the prior quarter's contraction, and the growth rates for both exports (+0.48%) and imports (-0.31%) moderated.

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes inventories) was nearly unchanged from the revised prior quarter at +2.58%.

Real annualized household disposable income dropped roughly $75 to $39,286 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate dropped -0.1% from a sharp downward revision (-1.2%) for the prior quarter.

For the second quarter the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 1.01%. During the same quarter (April 2017 through June 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was a minuscule 0.06%. 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 materially higher at a +3.53% annualized growth rate.

Concurrent with this report the BEA revised all of their data back through 2014. A more comprehensive revision of data back to 1929 will be published next July. On average the annualized quarterly headline growth rates were revised upward by +0.06%, although some individual quarters saw significant changes (e.g., the growth rate for the third quarter of 2016 was revised downward by -0.74%, while the growth rate for the second quarter of 2016 was revised upward +0.83%). Although in general the revisions tended to smooth the growth data between adjacent quarters, it is notable that late 2015 and the most recent prior two quarters were revised downward. All of our tables below reflect the revised numbers.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was reported to be +1.02% (up +0.91% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services also strengthened to +0.91% (up +0.27% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.93%, up +1.18% from 1Q-2017 and very similar to 4Q-2016 (+2.00%).

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments dropped to +0.36%, down a significant -1.35% from the prior quarter. That change came from a reported contraction in residential construction.

-- Inventory turned neutral (with a -0.02% contraction). This was a +1.09% improvement 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.

-- Governmental spending was reported to be growing slightly, at a +0.12% rate. This was a +0.28% improvement from the prior quarter.

-- Exports contributed +0.48% to the headline number, down -0.34% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports deducted -0.31% from the headline, which was up +0.28 from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade added +0.17% to the headline number.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" grew at an annualized 2.58%, up +0.05% 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 dropped materially (by $74 per annum). At the same time the household savings rate was reported to have dropped by -0.1% from a sharp downward revision (-1.2%) to the prior quarter. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.11% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.77% growth rate over the past 36 quarters.




The Numbers, Including Revisions to All Historic Data

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) $19.2 = $13.3 + $3.2 + $3.3 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 69.14% + 16.44% + 17.37% + -2.95%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.56% = 1.93% + 0.34% + 0.12% + 0.17%


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-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014
Total GDP Growth 2.56% 1.24% 1.76% 2.79% 2.25% 0.57% 0.48% 1.63% 2.74% 3.24% 2.01% 5.20% 4.61% -0.92%
Consumer Goods 1.02% 0.15% 1.03% 0.69% 1.30% 0.46% 0.63% 0.95% 0.99% 0.93% 1.26% 1.01% 1.38% 0.52%
Consumer Services 0.91% 1.17% 0.97% 1.23% 1.28% 0.77% 1.17% 0.90% 1.04% 1.56% 2.10% 1.64% 0.96% 0.74%
Fixed Investment 0.36% 1.27% 0.28% 0.25% 0.22% -0.05% -0.41% 0.55% 0.77% 0.67% 0.04% 1.45% 1.56% 0.76%
Inventories -0.02% -1.46% 1.06% 0.16% -0.67% -0.64% -0.68% -0.22% -0.63% 1.45% -0.26% 0.44% 0.91% -1.69%
Government 0.12% -0.11% 0.03% 0.09% -0.16% 0.32% 0.05% 0.21% 0.60% 0.27% -0.11% 0.39% 0.20% -0.11%
Exports 0.48% 0.85% -0.47% 0.74% 0.32% -0.33% -0.29% -0.51% 0.47% -0.59% 0.65% 0.09% 1.22% -0.35%
Imports -0.31% -0.63% -1.14% -0.37% -0.04% 0.04% 0.01% -0.25% -0.50% -1.05% -1.67% 0.18% -1.62% -0.79%
Real Final Sales 2.58% 2.70% 0.70% 2.63% 2.92% 1.21% 1.16% 1.85% 3.37% 1.79% 2.27% 4.76% 3.70% 0.77%





Summary and Commentary

At first reading this report shows moderate growth buoyed by somewhat stronger consumer spending. The notable takeaways from this report are :

-- Consumer spending growth recovered to the range typically seen in 2016.

-- Commercial fixed investment cooled materially from the number reported for the prior quarter. This was accompanied by a contraction in residential construction.

-- The distortions contributed by inventory swings temporarily disappeared.

-- The revisions to the historic data were not as dramatic as we have seen in prior years, and those revisions tended to smooth out the data series. This is in fact a reasonable result, since recently it has been likely that the real economy had more momentum quarter-to-quarter than the BEA's data might have suggested.

US consumer spending seems to have rebounded into more normal ranges. That and a 2.5% overall growth rate are certainly positive for the economy. It could be that US consumers have simply shrugged off the unrelenting domestic political drama and moved on to more normal spending patterns. In any event this report should provide the Federal Reserve with the data needed to justify moving forward with their "normalization" campaign.
 
     
     
  June 29, 2017 - BEA Revises 1st Quarter 2017 GDP Growth Upward To 1.42%:

In their third and final estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) revised the growth of the US economy upward to a +1.42% annual rate, up +0.26% from their previous estimate for the first quarter but still down over a half percent (-0.66%) from the +2.08% reported for the fourth quarter of 2016.

Weak consumer spending grew at a meager +0.75% annualized rate during the quarter, up +0.31 from the previous estimate but still down a significant -1.65% from the prior quarter. The previously reported inventory contraction worsened slightly to a -1.11% annual pace (a swing of -2.12% from the prior quarter). Although government spending was revised upward +0.04%, it still contracted during the quarter, removing -0.16% from the headline.

The good news continued to be commercial fixed investment, which although revised downward -0.14% is still now adding +1.71% to the headline. Foreign trade was also revised upward slightly (+0.09%) to a +0.23% contribution to the headline number, up some +2.05% from the prior quarter.

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes the contracting inventories) was more than a full percent better than the headline at +2.53%, up +1.46% from the 1.07% rate recorded 4Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was essentially unchanged at an annualized $39,360 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate was revised -0.1% lower to 5.1%.

For the fourth quarter the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 1.94%. During the same quarter (January 2017 through March 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was lower at 1.54%. 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 somewhat higher at a +1.84% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was still a miniscule +0.11% growth rate (down -1.18% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services strengthened as it was revised upward +0.27% to +0.64% (although that was down -0.47% from the prior quarter). The entirety of the increase came in upward revisions to the costs of healthcare and insurance (+0.38%). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +0.75%, down -1.65% from 4Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was revised downward -0.14% to +1.71%, although that remained +1.25% higher than the prior quarter. That growth was primarily in non-residential construction.

-- Inventory contraction deducted -1.11% from the headline number, a downward revision of -0.04% from the previous estimate and down -2.12% 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.

-- Governmental spending was still reported to be contracting, although at a revised lower annual rate (at -0.16%, down -0.19% from the prior quarter).

-- Exports were revised upward +0.13% to a +0.82% contribution to the headline, a +1.37% improvement from the prior quarter.

-- Imports were revised downward (-0.04%), and they subtracted -0.59% from the headline number (up +0.68% from the prior quarter). In aggregate, foreign trade added +0.23% to the headline number after subtracting -1.82% during the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" grew at an annualized 2.53%, up +0.30% from the previous estimate and up +1.46% from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory contraction.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was essentially unchanged. At the same time the household savings rate was revised downward again by -0.1%. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.32% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.81% growth rate over the past 35 quarters.




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) $19.0 = $13.1 + $3.1 + $3.3 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.96% + 16.50% + 17.50% + -2.96%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.42% = 0.75% + 0.60% + -0.16% + 0.23%


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

1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014
Total GDP Growth 1.42% 2.08% 3.53% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18%
Consumer Goods 0.11% 1.29% 0.77% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54%
Consumer Services 0.64% 1.11% 1.26% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73%
Fixed Investment 1.71% 0.46% 0.02% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79%
Inventories -1.11% 1.01% 0.49% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89%
Government -0.16% 0.03% 0.14% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19%
Exports 0.82% -0.55% 1.16% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39%
Imports -0.59% -1.27% -0.31% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77%
Real Final Sales 2.53% 1.07% 3.04% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71%





Summary and Commentary

This revision boosts the headline growth about a quarter percent to +1.42% -- better but still tepid. The notable takeaways from this report are :

-- The largest upward revision was in consumer spending for healthcare and insurance.

-- The growth rate for consumer spending on goods remains anemic.

-- The inventory contraction worsened, possibly in anticipation of softer future consumer spending.

-- Foreign trade remained a bright spot and is not a drag on the headline number.

The US consumer may be spending more, but that increased spending is not on discretionary "life-style" goods. And as per usual, the Fed is once again projecting a return to "normalcy" in the form of 3% growth in future quarters -- with consumer spending leading the way. But if this past quarter's pattern persists those consumers may continue to face a toxic mix of stagnant disposable income, rising insurance costs and shrinking savings -- not exactly a formula for happy campers.
 
     
     
  May 26, 2017 - BEA Revises 1st Quarter 2017 GDP Growth Upward To 1.16%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) revised the growth of the US economy upward to a +1.16% annual rate, up +0.47% from their previous estimate for the first quarter but still down nearly a percent (-0.92%) from the +2.08% reported for the fourth quarter of 2016.

Weak consumer spending grew at a meager +0.44% annualized rate during the quarter, up +0.21 from the previous estimate but still down a significant -1.96% from the prior quarter. The previously reported inventory contraction worsened slightly to a -1.07% annual pace (a swing of -2.08% from the prior quarter). Although government spending was revised upward +0.10%, it still contracted during the quarter, removing -0.20% from the headline.

The good news continued to be commercial fixed investment, which was revised upward +0.23% and is now adding +1.85% to the headline. Foreign trade was also revised upward slightly (+0.07%) to a +0.14% contribution to the headline number, up some +1.96% from the prior quarter.

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes the contracting inventories) was more than a full percent better than the headline at +2.23%, up +1.16% from the 1.07% rate recorded 4Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was revised downward $160 and it is now an annualized $39,359 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate was revised -0.5% lower to 5.2%.

For the fourth quarter the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.21%. During the same quarter (January 2017 through March 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was lower at 1.54%. 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 somewhat higher at a +1.85% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was still a miniscule +0.07% growth rate (down -1.22% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services remained anemic even as it was revised upward slightly to +0.37% (down -0.74% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +0.44%, down -1.96% from 4Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was revised upward +0.23% to +1.85%, up +1.39% from the prior quarter. That growth was mostly in non-residential construction.

-- Inventory contraction deducted -1.07% from the headline number, a downward revision of -0.14% from the previous estimate and down -2.08% 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.

-- Governmental spending was still reported to be contracting, although at a revised lower annual rate (at -0.20%, down -0.23% from the prior quarter).

-- Exports were essentially unchanged (+0.01%) at a +0.69% contribution to the headline, a +1.24% improvement from the prior quarter.

-- Imports were also mostly unchanged (+0.06%), and they subtracted -0.55% from the headline number (up +0.72% from the prior quarter). In aggregate, foreign trade added +0.14% to the headline number after subtracting -1.82% during the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" grew at an annualized 2.23%, up +0.61% from the previous estimate and up +1.16% from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory contraction.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was adjusted downward $160 (after a sharp downward revision to the 4th quarter). At the same time the household savings rate was revised downward -0.5%. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.31% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.81% growth rate over the past 35 quarters.




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) $19.0 = $13.1 + $3.1 + $3.3 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.89% + 16.55% + 17.49% + -2.93%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.16% = 0.44% + 0.78% + -0.20% + 0.14%


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

1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014
Total GDP Growth 1.16% 2.08% 3.53% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18%
Consumer Goods 0.07% 1.29% 0.77% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54%
Consumer Services 0.37% 1.11% 1.26% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73%
Fixed Investment 1.85% 0.46% 0.02% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79%
Inventories -1.07% 1.01% 0.49% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89%
Government -0.20% 0.03% 0.14% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19%
Exports 0.69% -0.55% 1.16% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39%
Imports -0.55% -1.27% -0.31% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77%
Real Final Sales 2.23% 1.07% 3.04% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71%





Summary and Commentary

This revision boosts the headline growth about a half percent to +1.16% -- although it remains firmly mired in tepid growth territory. The notable takeaways from an otherwise statistically insignificant report are :

-- The largest (and arguably only materially positive) revision was in commercial fixed investments, which was reported to be growing at the strongest rate the BEA has recorded over the past five years.

-- Consumer spending growth remains anemic.

-- The inventory contraction worsened, possibly in anticipation of softer future consumer spending.

-- Foreign trade remained a bright spot and not a drag on the headline number.

-- Historically, first calendar quarters are generally weaker than the other three quarters -- even though the numbers are purportedly "seasonally adjusted." Perhaps those adjustments need to be revisited.

If the US economy is consumer driven, that driver appears to be seriously distracted. Normally US consumer FUD ("Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt") is strictly a pre-election phenomenon. This time around FUD seems to have lingered far longer than normal.
 
     
     
  April 28, 2017 - BEA Estimates 1st Quarter 2017 GDP Growth At 0.69%:

In their first (preliminary) estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +0.69% annual rate, down roughly two thirds (-1.39%) from the +2.08% reported for the prior quarter.

Total consumer spending grew at a meager +0.23% annualized rate during the quarter, down a significant -2.17% from the prior quarter. Inventory contraction removed another -0.93% from the headline number, a swing of -1.94% from the prior quarter. Government spending contracted during the quarter, removing -0.30% from the headline.

The good news was that commercial fixed investment added +1.62 to the headline, the strongest contribution since 1Q-2012 -- five years ago. And foreign trade also improved markedly to an essentially neutral contribution (+0.07%), up some +1.89% from the prior quarter.

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes the growing inventories) was nearly a full percent better than the headline at +1.62%, up +0.55% from the 1.07% rate recorded 4Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was reported to have grown only $42 quarter-to-quarter, to an annualized $39,519 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate grew slightly to 5.7%. The slow disposable income growth and the increased savings rate in large part explain the softened growth in consumer spending.

For the fourth quarter the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.25%. During the same quarter (January 2017 through March 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was lower at 1.54%. 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 somewhat higher at a +1.41% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was a miniscule +0.02% growth rate (down -1.27% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was +0.21% (down -0.90% from the prior quarter), and the vast majority of the remaining increase was from greater healthcare spending. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +0.23%, down -2.17% from 4Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was reported to be +1.62%, up 1.16% from the prior quarter. That growth was mostly from non-residential construction.

-- Inventory contraction deducted -0.93% from the headline number, down -1.94% 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.

-- Governmental spending contracted, removing -0.30% from the headline number (down -0.33% from the prior quarter). The contraction was nearly equally split between Federal and state/local spending.

-- Exports strengthened significantly quarter-to-quarter, swinging to +0.68% growth after contracting -0.55% in the prior quarter.

-- Imports subtracted -0.61% from the headline number, up +0.66% from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade added +0.07% to the headline number after subtracting -1.82% during the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" grew at an annualized +1.62%, up +0.55% from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory growth.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was reported to have grown by only $42 quarter-to-quarter. At the same time the household savings rate increased to 5.7%. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.75% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.86% growth rate over the past 35 quarters.




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) $19.0 = $13.1 + $3.1 + $3.3 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.90% + 16.55% + 17.48% + -2.94%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 0.69% = 0.23% + 0.69% + -0.30% + 0.07%


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

1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014
Total GDP Growth 0.69% 2.08% 3.53% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18%
Consumer Goods 0.02% 1.29% 0.77% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54%
Consumer Services 0.21% 1.11% 1.26% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73%
Fixed Investment 1.62% 0.46% 0.02% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79%
Inventories -0.93% 1.01% 0.49% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89%
Government -0.30% 0.03% 0.14% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19%
Exports 0.68% -0.55% 1.16% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39%
Imports -0.61% -1.27% -0.31% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77%
Real Final Sales 1.62% 1.07% 3.04% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71%





Summary and Commentary

This report records a significant weakening in the growth of consumer spending, while commercial investment and foreign trade improved. The notable takeaways from the report are :

-- The consumer spending growth that remains can be accounted for entirely by increased healthcare costs.

-- Inventories contracted, arguably in anticipation of softer consumer spending.

-- Foreign trade reversed direction and for a change was not a drag on the headline number.

-- Commercial fixed investment was the strongest in five years.

The US economy is consumer driven; and for the moment that engine of growth has shifted into neutral. Wall Street euphoria notwithstanding, until disposable income shows significant signs of improvement, neutral may be the best that we can expect.
 
     


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