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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:07/201708/201709/201710/201711/201712/201701/201802/201803/201804/2018
Value:89.0187.0296.2496.5895.8288.7497.1196.5798.2497.77


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


     
  April 27, 2018 - BEA Estimates 1st Quarter 2018 GDP Growth at 2.32%:

In their first (preliminary) estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.32% annual rate, down -0.56% from the prior quarter.

The line item details were much weaker than the headline number might suggest. The most stunning news in the report was that consumer spending for consumer goods actually contracted during the quarter at a -0.24% annualized rate (down -1.91% from the prior quarter). Spending on consumer services also softened to a +0.97% annualized growth rate, down -0.11% from the prior quarter. The overall growth rate for consumer spending dropped over 2% from 4Q-2017 -- despite the roll-out of lower tax withholding rates during the quarter.

Weakening growth was also seen in the commercial and governmental sectors. Relative to the prior quarter the annualized growth rate for fixed commercial investment dropped -0.55%, governmental spending dropped -0.31%, and exports were -0.24% lower.

The only line items that recorded improving growth were inventories (up +0.96% from the prior quarter) and imports (up +1.60% from the prior quarter). In the BEA's formula, growth in these two line items is generally indicative of weakening domestic demand; and unfortunately the quarter-to-quarter swing in those two line items provided the headline number's entire positive spin.

Real annualized household disposable income increased a material $270 per year from the prior quarter, to $39,493 (in 2009 dollars) -- a reflection of improved "take-home" pay from the revised withholding tables. All of that improved "take-home" pay seems to have gone into savings, since the household savings rate improved to 3.1%. While this level is still below recent norms, it is +0.5% better than the prior quarter -- which was the lowest level seen since the third quarter of 2007.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 1.98%. During the same quarter (January 2018 through March 2018) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was materially higher at 2.53%. 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 significantly lower at a +1.82% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- Consumer expenditures for goods contracted at a -0.24% annualized rate (down -1.91% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services dropped -0.11% to +0.97%. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +0.73%, down -2.02% from 4Q-2017.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was +0.76%, down -0.55% from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories added +0.43% to the headline number -- after removing -0.53% in the prior quarter (a quarter-to-quarter swing of +0.96%). 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 added +0.20% to the headline number, down -0.31% from the prior quarter. Most of that softening came from weakening infrastructure spending at a local level.

-- Exports contributed +0.59% to the headline number, down -0.24% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports subtracted only -0.39% from the headline number, up +1.60% from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade boosted the headline number by +0.20%.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" growth was reported to be +1.89%, down a substantial -1.52% 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 reported to have grown $270 per annum from the prior quarter. The household savings rate was reported to be 3.1% (up +0.5% from the prior quarter, but only half of the rate recorded for second quarter of 2015). As always, it is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.68% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.76% growth rate over the past 39 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) $20 = $13.8 + $3.4 + $3.4 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 69.03% + 16.92% + 17.25% + -3.19%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.32% = 0.73% + 1.19% + 0.20% + 0.20%


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-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 2.32% 2.88% 3.16% 3.06% 1.24% 1.76% 2.79% 2.25% 0.57% 0.48% 1.63% 2.74% 3.24%
Consumer Goods -0.24% 1.67% 0.97% 1.16% 0.15% 1.03% 0.69% 1.30% 0.46% 0.63% 0.95% 0.99% 0.93%
Consumer Services 0.97% 1.08% 0.52% 1.08% 1.17% 0.97% 1.23% 1.28% 0.77% 1.17% 0.90% 1.04% 1.56%
Fixed Investment 0.76% 1.31% 0.40% 0.53% 1.27% 0.28% 0.25% 0.22% -0.05% -0.41% 0.55% 0.77% 0.67%
Inventories 0.43% -0.53% 0.79% 0.12% -1.46% 1.06% 0.16% -0.67% -0.64% -0.68% -0.22% -0.63% 1.45%
Government 0.20% 0.51% 0.12% -0.03% -0.11% 0.03% 0.09% -0.16% 0.32% 0.05% 0.21% 0.60% 0.27%
Exports 0.59% 0.83% 0.25% 0.42% 0.85% -0.47% 0.74% 0.32% -0.33% -0.29% -0.51% 0.47% -0.59%
Imports -0.39% -1.99% 0.11% -0.22% -0.63% -1.14% -0.37% -0.04% 0.04% 0.01% -0.25% -0.50% -1.05%
Real Final Sales 1.89% 3.41% 2.37% 3.94% 2.70% 0.70% 2.63% 2.92% 1.21% 1.16% 1.85% 3.37% 1.79%





Summary and Commentary

It can be argued that the headline number materially overstates the actual growth rate of the US economy. All of the BEA's three major "smoke and mirrors" components seem to be in play for the first quarter of 2018: inventories, imports and deflators. At key economic inflection points those three components can become closely coupled, with lagging price discovery compounding reported inventory and import swings.

The major takeaways from this report are :

-- Consumer spending for goods contracted during the quarter.

-- The annualized growth rate for overall consumer spending dropped over -2%.

-- The growth rates for everything not inventories or imports weakened materially.

-- Although household disposable income improved (because of reduced withholding rates in the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017"), most of that improvement went into increased savings. During the first quarter of 2018 households were showing signs of budgetary stress.

-- The BEA's deflators may once again be boosting the headline number, in this case by +0.50%.

The US economy is not quite as robust as the BEA's headline number might suggest. A +2.32% headline would generally be a good thing. But unfortunately, weakening domestic demand is causing inventories to soar and imports to crash -- which in the BEA's calculus are boosting what would otherwise be a much weaker headline number.

Although upcoming revisions might tell a different story, this report painted a picture of an economy in transition to materially lower growth.
 
     
     
  March 28, 2018 - BEA Revises 4th Quarter 2017 GDP Growth Upward to 2.88%:

In their third (and final) estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.88% annual rate, up +0.35% from their previous estimate, but still down -0.28% from the prior quarter.

The boost in the headline number resulted from upward revisions to contributions from consumer spending (+0.17%) and inventories (also a +0.17% increase, as a result of reportedly slower inventory contractions). No other line items changed materially. The BEA's "bottom line" for the quarter (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes inventories) increased to +3.41%, up +0.18% from the previous estimate and +1.04% from the prior quarter.

Real annualized household disposable income decreased -$2 per year from the previous report to $39,223 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate deteriorated to 2.6%, lower than the level recorded in third quarter of 2007 -- at the onset of the "Great Recession."

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.35%. During the same quarter (October 2017 through December 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was a very similar but slightly higher 2.49%. 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 slightly lower at a +2.82% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods increased to +1.67%, up +0.06% from the +1.61% previously reported (and up +0.70% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending increased +0.11% to +1.08%. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number climbed to +2.75%, up +1.26% from 3Q-2017.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was revised upward slightly (+0.02%) to +1.31%, up +0.91% from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories subtracted -0.53% from the headline number -- after removing -0.70% in the previous report and adding +0.79% in the prior quarter (a quarter-to-quarter swing of -1.32%). 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 added +0.51% to the headline number, up +0.02% from the previous report.

-- Exports contributed +0.83% to the headline number, up +0.58% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports subtracted -1.99% from the headline number, down -0.02% from the previous report and a drop of over two percent (-2.10%) from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade subtracted -1.16% from the headline number.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" growth was revised upward to an annualized 3.41%, up +1.04% 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 revised downward -$2 per annum from the previous report and it is now up only +$30 per annum from the 3rd quarter number. The household savings rate was reported to be 2.6% (down -0.8% from the prior quarter and down more than a full percent from 2Q-2017). As always, it is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.94% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.71% growth rate over the past 38 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) $19.8 = $13.7 + $3.3 + $3.4 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 69.12% + 16.68% + 17.25% + -3.05%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.88% = 2.75% + 0.78% + 0.51% + -1.16%


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-2017 3Q-2017 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 2.88% 3.16% 3.06% 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 1.67% 0.97% 1.16% 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 1.08% 0.52% 1.08% 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 1.31% 0.40% 0.53% 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 -0.53% 0.79% 0.12% -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 0.51% 0.12% -0.03% -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 0.83% 0.25% 0.42% 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 -1.99% 0.11% -0.22% -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 3.41% 2.37% 3.94% 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

The boost in the headline number came equally from consumer spending and inventory revisions. The only other material change was the deteriorating household savings rate. The major takeaway from this report is the latter :

-- Despite the current happy unemployment numbers, household disposable income and savings rates remain weak. The savings rate is lower than the level seen at the brink of the "Great Recession" and disposable income has grown less than 7% in aggregate over the past 10 years.

As we mentioned last month, the stagnant household income numbers should (in theory) get a boost in the first and second quarters of 2018 from the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017." The withholding changes should have been rolled out during the first quarter and will be in effect for the entire second quarter.

We will be watching closely to see when the improved take-home pay translates into higher consumer spending. It is likely that the spending boost will lag by a quarter or more while household budgets (and savings rates) regain some breathing room.
 
     
     
  February 28, 2018 - BEA Leaves 4th Quarter 2017 GDP Growth Essentially Unchanged at 2.53%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.53% annual rate, down -0.01% from their previous estimate and down -0.63% from the prior quarter.

This report contains no material revisions. The largest change consisted of a shift of 0.15% growth from consumer goods spending to consumer services spending. Otherwise, no line item in the report changed by more than +/- 0.03%. The BEA's "bottom line" for the quarter (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes inventories) increased slightly to +3.23%, up +0.02% from the previous estimate and +0.86% from the prior quarter.

Real annualized household disposable income improved +$12 per year from the previous report to $39,225 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate improved marginally to 2.7%, the same low level recorded in third quarter of 2007 -- at the onset of the "Great Recession."

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.34%. During the same quarter (October 2017 through December 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was a very similar but slightly higher 2.49%. 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 slightly lower at a +2.44% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods dropped to +1.61%, down -0.15% from the +1.76% previously reported (although still up +0.64% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services exactly offset the revision to the consumer goods number, increasing +0.15% to +0.97%. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number remained at +2.58%, up a +1.09% from 3Q-2017.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was revised upward slightly (+0.02%) to +1.29%, up +0.89% from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories subtracted -0.70% from the headline number after adding +0.79% in the prior quarter (a swing of -1.49%). 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 added +0.49% to the headline number, down -0.01% from the previous report.

-- Exports contributed +0.84% to the headline number, up +0.59% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports subtracted -1.97% from the headline number, down -0.01% from the previous report and a drop of over two percent (-2.08%) from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade subtracted -1.13% from the headline number.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" growth was revised upward slightly to an annualized 3.23%, up +0.86% 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 revised upward +$12 per annum from the previous report and is now up +$32 per annum from the 3rd quarter number. The household savings rate was reported to be 2.7% (down -0.7% from the prior quarter and down a full percent from 2Q-2017). As always, it is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.95% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.71% growth rate over the past 38 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) $19.7 = $13.6 + $3.3 + $3.4 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 69.14% + 16.65% + 17.25% + -3.04%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.54% = 2.58% + 0.60% + 0.50% + -1.14%


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

4Q-2017 3Q-2017 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 2.53% 3.16% 3.06% 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 1.61% 0.97% 1.16% 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 0.97% 0.52% 1.08% 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 1.29% 0.40% 0.53% 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 -0.70% 0.79% 0.12% -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 0.49% 0.12% -0.03% -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 0.84% 0.25% 0.42% 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 -1.97% 0.11% -0.22% -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 3.23% 2.37% 3.94% 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

The revisions in this report are arguably nothing more than statistical noise. In fact, the line-by-line revisions in this report are among the smallest ever recorded. The takeaways from this report are :

-- Revisions this minor are very unusual for a second estimate, perhaps indicative of a relatively stable economy (or more likely, better guessing in the first estimate).

-- The BEA's deflators are very similar to those published by the BLS -- probably the result of relatively stable price levels.

-- Despite the current happy unemployment numbers, household disposable income and savings rates remain weak. The savings rate is at the same level last seen at the brink of the "Great Recession" and disposable income has grown less than 7% in aggregate over the past 10 years.

Presumably the stagnant household income numbers will get a boost in the first and second quarters of 2018 as a result of the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017." The withholding changes should have been rolled out during the first quarter and will be in effect for the entire second quarter.

It will be interesting to see how soon the improved take-home pay translates into the highly anticipated boost in consumer spending. Recent history suggests that the household savings rate will be the initial beneficiary of the higher pay checks -- at least during the quarter or more that household budgets may need to recover some breathing room.
 
     
     
  January 26, 2018 - BEA Estimates 4th Quarter 2017 GDP Growth to be 2.54%:

In their first (and preliminary) estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.54% annual rate, down -0.62% from the prior quarter.

This is a report of sharp contrasts. Although the headline number is down relative to the prior quarter, this report actually contains the strongest consumer spending growth (+2.58%) since the 2nd quarter of 2016. But offsetting that good news is the worst import contribution (-1.96%) since the 3rd quarter of 2010. And inventories flip-flopped from boosting the headline last quarter (+0.79%) to being a major drag on the headline this quarter (-0.67%). Fixed investment (at a +1.27% contribution), exports (adding +0.82% to headline) and government spending (contributing +0.50%) were also impressive. Netting all of this, the BEA's "bottom line" for the quarter (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes inventories) improved substantially to +3.21%, up +0.84% from the prior quarter.

Casting a shadow on the good news from the consumer spending uptick is other data showing where the spending is actually coming from. Real annualized household disposable income shrank -$12 from the previous report to $39,213 (in 2009 dollars) -- and the 3rd quarter number was revised sharply downward by -$47. The household savings rate plunged to 2.6%, which is lower than even the 2.7% recorded third quarter of 2007 -- at the very precipice of the "Great Recession."

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.38%. During the same quarter (October 2017 through December 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was a similar but somewhat higher 2.61%. 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 slightly lower at a +2.37% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was reported to be substantially stronger at +1.76% (up +0.79% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services also improved materially, up +0.30% to +0.82%. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.58%, up a significant +1.09% from 3Q-2017.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments more than tripled to +1.27%, up +0.87% from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories reversed their contribution to the headline number, subtracting -0.67% after adding +0.79% in the prior quarter (a swing of -1.46%). 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 added a surprising +0.50% to the headline number, the highest growth rate since the 2nd quarter of 2015.

-- Exports contributed +0.82% to the headline number, up +0.57% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports subtracted -1.96% from the headline number, a drop of over two percent (-2.07%) from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade subtracted -1.14% from the headline number.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" grew at an annualized 3.21%, up +0.84% 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 -$12 per annum from the previously reported 3rd quarter number. At the same time the household savings rate was reported to have dropped to 2.6% (down -0.7% from the prior quarter and down a full percent from 2Q-2017). As always, it is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.91% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.71% growth rate over the past 38 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) $19.7 = $13.6 + $3.3 + $3.4 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 69.14% + 16.65% + 17.25% + -3.04%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.54% = 2.58% + 0.60% + 0.50% + -1.14%


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

4Q-2017 3Q-2017 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 2.54% 3.16% 3.06% 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 1.76% 0.97% 1.16% 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 0.82% 0.52% 1.08% 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 1.27% 0.40% 0.53% 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 -0.67% 0.79% 0.12% -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 0.50% 0.12% -0.03% -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 0.82% 0.25% 0.42% 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 -1.96% 0.11% -0.22% -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 3.21% 2.37% 3.94% 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

This report is a shockingly mixed bag. Consumers contributed more than the net headline number, with poor showings by inventories and imports more than offsetting material growth in fixed investments, exports and government spending. The notable takeaways from this report are :

-- Imports surged, even as the dollar weakened. Exports simultaneously increased materially. Clearly currency movement is not the only thing happening in the foreign trade arena.

-- Inventories once again wreaked havoc upon the headline number. What inventories gave last quarter they took away this quarter.

-- The big story, however, was household disposable income. And noteworthy was the fact that the 3rd quarter numbers were quietly revised sharply downward. But the real shocker was that household savings rates dropped below those last seen at the brink of the "Great Recession." All of the surge in consumer spending came from savings, not pay checks -- meaning that the surge is simply not sustainable.

This report is more troubling upon reflection than the +2.54% headline might suggest. Although the headline is sort of in the "Goldilocks" zone for US economic growth, having household income and the savings rate remind us of the summer of 2007 is unsettling at best.
 
     
     
  December 21, 2017 - BEA Revises 3rd Quarter 2017 GDP Growth Downward Slightly to 3.16%:

In their third and final estimate of the US GDP for the third quarter of 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +3.16% annual rate, down -0.14% from the previous estimate and up +0.10% from the prior quarter.

All of the revisions to the data could arguably be characterized as merely statistical noise. Certainly none of them are material. The changes from the prior estimate reflect higher consumer goods spending, less spending on consumer services, offsetting minor adjustments to commercial fixed investment and inventory growth, slightly more governmental spending and slightly weaker foreign trade. The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes inventories) decreased to +2.37%, down -0.57% from the prior quarter.

Real annualized household disposable income rose +$8 to $39,225 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate remained unchanged at 3.3%, staying at the lowest level recorded since the fourth quarter of 2007.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.08%. During the same quarter (July 2017 through September 2017) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 4.31%. 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 materially lower at a +1.00% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was reported to be slightly stronger at +0.97% (although that is down -0.19% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services dropped -0.19% to +0.52% (down -0.56% -- more than halved -- from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.49%, down -0.75% from 2Q-2017.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments increased slightly to +0.40%, up +0.01 from the previous estimate but still down -0.13% from the prior quarter. That continued to reflect a contraction in residential construction.

-- Inventory growth continued to provide a material boost to the headline number (+0.79%). This was a +0.67% 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 at a +0.12% rate. This was a +0.15% improvement from the prior quarter and is boosted somewhat by the annual fiscal year end spending binge.

-- Exports contributed +0.25% to the headline number, down -0.17% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports added +0.11% to the headline, which was up +0.33% from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade added +0.36% to the headline number.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" grew at an annualized 2.37%, down -0.57% 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 reportedly rose +$8 per annum. At the same time the household savings rate was reported to have stayed at 3.3% (down -0.4% from the prior quarter). It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.95% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.73% growth rate over the past 37 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) $19.5 = $13.4 + $3.2 + $3.4 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.87% + 16.66% + 17.21% + -2.74%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.16% = 1.49% + 1.19% + 0.12% + 0.36%


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-2017 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 3.16% 3.06% 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 0.97% 1.16% 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 0.52% 1.08% 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 0.40% 0.53% 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 0.79% 0.12% -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% -0.03% -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 0.25% 0.42% 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 0.11% -0.22% -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 2.37% 3.94% 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

The BEA generally gets its numbers right at times when the economy and economic growth are relatively stable. We suspect that these particular numbers are not likely to be significantly revised during the next annual historical revisions in July 2018. The notable takeaways from this report are :

-- Inventory growth provides a quarter of the headline number. As mentioned before, inventory growth is noisy and mean reverting. What it gives in this quarter it will take away somewhere down the road.

-- Despite rising and inescapable healthcare costs, the growth in spending on consumer services was the lowest since the second quarter of 2013. The consumer services sector has been a major driving factor in this economy over the past decade, and that growth may very well have maxed out.

-- Household disposable income remains miserable. There is still no material growth, and savings rates remains at the lowest levels since the very bottom of the "Great Recession." This means that a significant portion of the already softening consumer spending came from savings, not pay checks.

-- If the numbers were deflated using data from the BLS, most of the warm feelings from this report disappear and the economy seems instead to be growing at a meager 1%.

However computed, a relatively stable headline number that is somewhat above 3% is just cause for satisfaction, if not celebration. Inventory buildups, stressed households and understated inflation are the cautionary tales in this final 3Q-2017 report.
 
     


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