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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:11/201812/201801/201902/201903/201904/201905/201906/201907/201908/2019
Value:98.45100.1897.7597.9697.5299.9897.9397.8999.12102.35


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 29, 2019 - BEA Leaves Second Quarter 2019 GDP Growth Essentially Unchanged at 2.04%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2019, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.04% annual rate, down -0.01 percentage points (pp) from their previous estimate and down -1.05pp from the prior quarter.

Although the headline number was essentially unchanged, the report did shift material portions of the aggregate growth into the consumer sector from commercial and governmental activities. Specifically, in the consumer sector spending on goods was revised upward by +0.11pp, while spending on services was revised upward by +0.15pp. Offsetting those improvements, the growth rates for spending on fixed commercial investments, inventories, government and exports dropped a combined -0.27pp.

Annualized household disposable income was revised $9 higher than in the previous report, and the household savings rate was reported to be 8.0%, down -0.1pp from the previous report.

For this estimate the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.54%. During the same quarter the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was significantly lower at 1.83%. 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 noticeably higher at 2.80%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- Consumer spending for goods was reported to be growing at a 1.78% rate, up 0.11pp from the previous estimate and up 1.46pp from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was reported to be 1.32%, up 0.15pp from the previous report and up 0.86pp from the prior quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was 3.10%, up 0.26pp from the previous report.

-- The headline contribution for commercial/private fixed investments was revised downward to -0.20%, down -0.06pp from the previous report and down -0.76pp from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories subtracted -0.91% from the headline number, down -0.05pp from the previous report and down -1.44pp 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 contribution to the headline from governmental spending was revised to 0.77%, down -0.08pp from the previous report but still up 0.27pp from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution from exports was revised to -0.71%, down -0.08pp from the previous report and down -1.20pp from the prior quarter.

-- Imports were left unchanged -- subtracting -0.01% annualized 'growth' from the headline number and down -0.24pp from the prior quarter. Foreign trade contributed a net -0.72pp to the headline number.

-- The annualized growth in the 'real final sales of domestic product' was revised to 2.95%, up 0.04pp from the previous report and up 0.39pp 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 was revised $9 higher than in the previous estimate. The annualized household savings rate was 8.0% (down -0.1pp from the previous report). In the 44 quarters since 2Q-2008 the cumulative annualized growth rate for real per-capita disposable income has been 1.49%.




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) $21.3 = $14.5 + $3.8 + $3.7 + $-.7
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.00% + 17.58% + 17.53% + -3.11%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.04% = 3.10% + -1.11% + 0.77% + -0.72%


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

Q2-2019 Q1-2019 Q4-2018 Q3-2018 Q2-2018 Q1-2018 Q4-2017 Q3-2017 Q2-2017 Q1-2017 Q4-2016 Q3-2016
Total GDP Growth 2.04% 3.09% 1.09% 2.92% 3.50% 2.55% 3.55% 3.20% 2.15% 2.30% 2.04% 2.19%
Consumer Goods 1.78% 0.32% 0.33% 0.75% 1.13% 0.27% 1.55% 0.85% 1.14% 0.68% 0.41% 0.84%
Consumer Services 1.32% 0.46% 0.65% 1.59% 1.57% 0.88% 1.57% 0.76% 0.49% 0.95% 1.29% 0.90%
Fixed Investment -0.20% 0.56% 0.46% 0.13% 0.89% 0.94% 1.45% 0.25% 0.48% 1.27% 0.33% 0.62%
Inventories -0.91% 0.53% 0.07% 2.14% -1.20% 0.13% -0.64% 1.00% 0.11% -0.70% 1.18% -0.53%
Government 0.77% 0.50% -0.07% 0.36% 0.44% 0.33% 0.42% -0.02% 0.24% -0.04% 0.19% 0.31%
Exports -0.71% 0.49% 0.18% -0.78% 0.71% 0.10% 1.19% 0.54% 0.20% 0.72% -0.30% 0.71%
Imports -0.01% 0.23% -0.53% -1.27% -0.04% -0.10% -1.99% -0.18% -0.51% -0.58% -1.06% -0.66%
Real Final Sales 2.95% 2.56% 1.02% 0.78% 4.70% 2.42% 4.19% 2.20% 2.04% 3.00% 0.86% 2.72%





Summary and Commentary

For the most part, the nearly unchanged headline number reflects the "statistical noise" character of this report. Once again, the deflator being used minimizes the headline number -- simultaneously deflating conspiracy theories about politically motivated tweaking of the underlying assumptions.

While this is not exactly "happy days are here again," it is also clearly not doom and gloom. Nor is the US economy -- by itself -- strong enough to pull the global economy out of a global economic funk.

This may be what an inflection point feels like.
 
     
     
  July 26, 2019 - BEA Reports that 2nd Quarter 2019 GDP Growth Grew at 2.05%:

In their first (preliminary) estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2019, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.05% annual rate, down -1.04 percentage points (pp) from the downward revised prior quarter.

In this report the BEA also revised all of the numbers for 22 quarters dating back through 2014. Although each of the prior 4 quarters was revised downward (including a material -1.07pp downward revision to the 4th quarter of 2018), the average quarterly revision was a modest +0.02pp upward.

The line item numbers in this report also reversed a number of trends observed in prior quarters. Consumer spending came roaring back, contributing an aggregate 2.84pp to the headline number, the most since the 4th quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, fixed commercial investments and inventories reversed course, subtracting -1.00pp from the headline. The growth in government spending more than doubled to +0.85%, while foreign trade (both exports and imports) weakened substantially, lowering the headline number by -0.64pp.

Household disposable income was reported to be $213 higher than in the upwardly revised prior quarter, and the household savings rate was reported to have dropped -0.4pp to 8.1% from an upwardly revised prior quarter. Both of these factors were likely key to the improved consumer spending.

For this estimate the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.51%. During the same quarter (April 2019 through June 2019) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was materially lower at 1.83%. 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 substantially higher at a +2.77% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- Consumer spending for goods was reported to be growing at a +1.67% rate, up +1.52pp from the revised prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was reported to be +1.17%, up +0.69pp from the prior quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was reported to be up +2.21pp from the revised prior quarter. This sharply reverses a multi-quarter trend of weakening growth in consumer spending.

-- The headline contribution for commercial/private fixed investments was reported to be -0.14%, down +0.67pp from the revised prior quarter. This is the first contraction in fixed investment spending since the 4th quarter of 2015.

-- Inventories subtracted -0.86% from the headline number, down a substantial -1.41pp from the revised 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 contribution to the headline from governmental spending was reported to be +0.85%, up +0.37pp from the revised prior quarter. All of this growth was in Federal non-defense spending.

-- The contribution from exports was reported to be -0.63%, down a substantial -1.28pp from the revised prior quarter.

-- And second quarter imports subtracted -0.01% annualized "growth" from the headline number, down -0.31pp from the revised prior quarter.

-- The annualized growth in the "real final sales of domestic product" was reported to be +2.91%, up +0.32pp from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy (and it excludes the inventory data).

-- Real per-capita annualized disposable income was reported to have grown by $213 quarter to quarter. For the past quarter the annualized household savings rate was reported to have dropped to 8.1% (down -0.4pp from the revised prior quarter). The increased disposable income and reduced savings likely drove the improved consumer spending.




The Numbers -- All Quarters 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) $21.3 = $14.5 + $3.8 + $3.7 + $-0.7
% of GDP 100.00% = 67.95% + 17.60% + 17.55% + -3.10%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.05% = 2.84% + -1.00% + 0.85% + -0.64%


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-2019 1Q-2019 4Q-2018 3Q-2018 2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016
Total GDP Growth 2.05% 3.09% 1.09% 2.92% 3.50% 2.55% 3.55% 3.20% 2.15% 2.30% 2.04% 2.19% 1.90% 2.04%
Consumer Goods 1.67% 0.32% 0.33% 0.75% 1.13% 0.27% 1.55% 0.85% 1.14% 0.68% 0.41% 0.84% 0.94% 0.88%
Consumer Services 1.17% 0.46% 0.65% 1.59% 1.57% 0.88% 1.57% 0.76% 0.49% 0.95% 1.29% 0.90% 1.01% 1.23%
Fixed Investment -0.14% 0.56% 0.46% 0.13% 0.89% 0.94% 1.45% 0.25% 0.48% 1.27% 0.33% 0.62% 0.44% 0.43%
Inventories -0.86% 0.53% 0.07% 2.14% -1.20% 0.13% -0.64% 1.00% 0.11% -0.70% 1.18% -0.53% -0.72% -0.68%
Government 0.85% 0.50% -0.07% 0.36% 0.44% 0.33% 0.42% -0.02% 0.24% -0.04% 0.19% 0.31% -0.12% 0.67%
Exports -0.63% 0.49% 0.18% -0.78% 0.71% 0.10% 1.19% 0.54% 0.20% 0.72% -0.30% 0.71% 0.45% -0.38%
Imports -0.01% 0.23% -0.53% -1.27% -0.04% -0.10% -1.99% -0.18% -0.51% -0.58% -1.06% -0.66% -0.10% -0.11%
Real Final Sales 2.91% 2.56% 1.02% 0.78% 4.70% 2.42% 4.19% 2.20% 2.04% 3.00% 0.86% 2.72% 2.62% 2.72%





Summary and Commentary

We are not quite sure what to make of this new report, primarily because it singularly reverses a number of trends that were very noticeable over the course of the past year. With that in mind, and at face value, the key takeaways from this report for the 2nd quarter of 2019 are as follows :

-- The much lamented demise of the consumer sector seems to have been premature. Combined spending on goods and services provided more growth (+2.84%) than the net headline number. The improvement in disposable income and the decrease in savings have likely fueled this spending surge -- reflecting improving household sentiment.

-- Commercial spending on fixed investment, which had materially supported the headline number for the past year, slid into contraction for the first time since 2015.

-- Inventories did their "thing" -- flipping sharply into negative territory. This is mean reversion at its very best. But arguably it is the flip side of the improvement in consumer spending. And it brings to mind that inventory draw downs are the ultimate mixed message -- demonstrating caution on the part of inventory holders while simultaneously offering an encouraging long range future to manufacturers.

-- Government spending soared, with all of the increase in Federal non-defense spending. This is likely related to a time-shifted spending from the extended "shutdown" -- although the "shutdown" itself (as expected) resulted in no material reduction in spending.

-- Foreign trade also flipped, dropping the headline by -0.64pp after adding +0.72pp in the prior quarter, a -1.36pp quarter-to-quarter swing.

-- The BEA's deflator is now substantially higher than the CPI-U reported by the BLS, resulting in an materially more pessimistic growth rate than might otherwise have been reported -- reversing yet another trend.

-- The 22 quarters of historic revisions were, as a whole, relatively benign -- averaging an upward +0.02pp per quarter. However the immediately preceding four quarters took a beating, with the 4th quarter of 2018 dropping by a material -1.07pp.

Over the years we have come to expect that the revision process will reduce the growth reported in the relatively recent past. That raises the obvious question: Is the BEA's data collection process naturally biased to optimism on a quarter by quarter basis? Or is it just good bureaucratic policy to bury some of the negative stuff in the revisions that nobody really looks at?

It is plausible that the BEA's survey based approach introduces a short term survivor bias in their reports -- a phenomenon also observed in employment data. Non-responding survey participants are assumed to still be operating, and their prior responses are simply carried forward. Eventually the dead entities get weeded out, but not before the earlier assumptions about them creates a short term survivor bias.

We certainly hope that the bias is procedural, and not bureaucratic policy. And if it is procedural, we might point out that this is the 21st century -- with even tradition bound Major League Baseball embracing instant replays and experimenting with robots calling balls and strikes. Surely we should expect the BEA to be doing much better.
 
     
     
  June 27, 2019 - BEA Revises 1st Quarter 2019 GDP Growth Slightly Upward to 3.14%:

In their third (and final) estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2019, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +3.14% annual rate, up +0.07 percentage points (pp) from the previous report, and up +0.98pp from the prior quarter.

Although the headline revision was relatively modest and some of the details within the report are certainly statistical noise, this revision did make some material shifts in the distribution of the annualized growth. Consumer spending on goods was no longer reported to be contracting, the growth in consumer spending on services was halved, and the growth rate for fixed investments more than doubled.

Household disposable income was revised lower by -$24 per annum, and the household savings rate was reported to have stayed steady at 6.7% (up +0.2pp from the prior quarter).

For this estimate the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 0.63%. During the same quarter (January 2019 through March 2019) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was materially higher at 2.27%. 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 halved to a +1.51% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The new report revised consumer spending for goods into modest growth during the first quarter of 2019. The headline contribution from consumer goods spending was reported to be +0.15%, down -0.39pp from the prior quarter.

-- In sharp contrast, the contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was halved from +0.96% to +0.48%, down -0.64pp from the prior quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was reported to be down -1.03pp from the prior quarter, confirming a third consecutive quarter of weakening growth in consumer spending.

-- The headline contribution for commercial/private fixed investments was reported to be +0.53%, up +0.35pp from the previous report and now essentially flat relative to the prior quarter.

-- Inventories boosted the headline number by +0.55pp, down -0.05pp from the previous report but up +0.44pp 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 contribution to the headline from governmental spending was revised upward to +0.48%, up +0.55pp from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution from exports was reported to be +0.65%, now up +0.43pp from the prior quarter.

-- And in this revision, in the first quarter imports added +0.30% annualized "growth" to the headline number (after subtracting -0.30% annualized "growth" during the prior quarter). This amounts to economic "growth" by virtue of fewer dollars spent on imported goods.

-- The annualized growth in the "real final sales of domestic product" was revised upward to +2.59%, now up +0.54pp 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 was revised downward -$24. For the past quarter the annualized household savings rate was reported to have remained steady at 6.7% (up +0.2pp from the 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) $21.0 = $14.2 + $3.8 + $3.6 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 67.61% + 18.15% + 17.12% + -2.88%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.14% = 0.63% + 1.08% + 0.48% + 0.95%


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-2019 4Q-2018 3Q-2018 2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016
Total GDP Growth 3.14% 2.16% 3.36% 4.16% 2.22% 2.29% 2.82% 3.00% 1.79% 1.77% 1.92% 2.28% 1.54%
Consumer Goods 0.15% 0.54% 0.90% 1.16% -0.13% 1.42% 0.86% 1.17% 0.40% 0.58% 0.70% 1.01% 0.72%
Consumer Services 0.48% 1.12% 1.47% 1.42% 0.49% 1.22% 0.65% 0.79% 0.82% 1.17% 1.09% 1.29% 0.90%
Fixed Investment 0.53% 0.54% 0.21% 1.10% 1.34% 1.04% 0.44% 0.72% 1.60% 0.28% 0.52% 0.46% 0.31%
Inventories 0.55% 0.11% 2.33% -1.17% 0.27% -0.91% 1.04% 0.23% -0.80% 1.03% -0.59% -0.62% -0.62%
Government 0.48% -0.07% 0.44% 0.43% 0.27% 0.41% -0.18% 0.01% -0.13% 0.03% 0.17% -0.15% 0.60%
Exports 0.65% 0.22% -0.62% 1.12% 0.43% 0.79% 0.42% 0.44% 0.59% -0.44% 0.71% 0.39% -0.31%
Imports 0.30% -0.30% -1.37% 0.10% -0.45% -1.68% -0.41% -0.36% -0.69% -0.88% -0.68% -0.10% -0.06%
Real Final Sales 2.59% 2.05% 1.03% 5.33% 1.95% 3.20% 1.78% 2.77% 2.59 0.74% 2.51% 2.90% 2.16%





Summary and Commentary

The key takeaways from this revision for the 1st quarter of 2019 are as follows :

-- Although the headline number was largely unchanged, this report shifted a material portion of that growth from the consumer sector to commercial fixed investment.

-- In the 43 quarters since 2Q-2008 the cumulative annualized growth rate for real per-capita annualized disposable income has been a dismal 1.27%.

-- The BEA's headline number was more that doubled by an inflation rate that was materially at odds with the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

-- Happily for policy makers, this revision left the headline number (for the moment) in the "Goldilocks" zone of economic growth. But if the NY Fed's "NowCasting" and/or the Atlanta Fed's "GDPNow" projections for the 2nd quarter of 2019 are reasonably accurate, we can expect the next report to move the headline somewhat south of where Goldilocks resides.

We look forward to the BEA's next report, which will also contain their annual revisions to historical data.
 
     
     
  May 30, 2019 - BEA Revises 1st Quarter 2019 GDP Growth Slightly Downward to 3.07%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2019, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +3.07% annual rate, down -0.11 percentage points (pp) from the previous report, but still up +0.91pp from the prior quarter.

The details within the revision should be viewed as merely statistical noise. Consumer spending on goods was still reported to be contracting, while the growth rates for fixed investments and inventories were revised modestly lower. Export and Import growth rates had minor and largely offsetting revisions.

Household disposable income was revised lower by -$132 per annum on a quarter over quarter basis, and the household savings rate was reported to have dropped to 6.7% (down +0.3pp from the previous report).

For this estimate the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 0.48%. During the same quarter (January 2019 through March 2019) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was materially higher at 2.27%. 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 more than halved to a +1.29% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The new report confirmed that consumer spending for goods contracted during the first quarter of 2019. The headline contribution from consumer goods spending was reported to be -0.06%, down -0.60pp from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was reported to be unchanged at +0.96%, down -0.16pp from the prior quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was reported to be down -0.76pp from the prior quarter, confirming a third consecutive quarter of weakening growth in consumer spending.

-- The headline contribution for commercial/private fixed investments was reported to be +0.18%, down -0.09pp from the previous report and now down -0.36pp from the prior quarter.

-- Inventories boosted the headline number by +0.60pp, down -0.05pp from the previous report but up +0.49pp 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 rate in governmental spending was left essentially unchanged at +0.42%, up +0.49pp from the prior quarter.

-- The annualized growth in exports was reported to be +0.58%, now up +0.36pp from the prior quarter.

-- According to this revision, in the first quarter imports added +0.39% annualized "growth" to the headline number (after subtracting -0.30% annualized "growth" during the prior quarter). This amounts to economic "growth" by virtue of fewer dollars spent on imported goods.

-- The annualized growth in the "real final sales of domestic product" was revised modestly downward to +2.47%, but it is still up +0.42pp from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy (and it excludes the inventory data).

-- As mentioned above, the growth of real per-capita annualized disposable income was revised downward to $132 quarter over quarter. The annualized household savings rate was reported to have decreased to 6.7% (up +0.2pp from the 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) $21.0 = $14.2 + $3.8 + $3.6 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 67.69% + 18.09% + 17.11% + -2.88%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.07% = 0.90% + 0.78% + 0.42% + 0.97%


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-2019 4Q-2018 3Q-2018 2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016
Total GDP Growth 3.07% 2.16% 3.36% 4.16% 2.22% 2.29% 2.82% 3.00% 1.79% 1.77% 1.92% 2.28% 1.54%
Consumer Goods -0.06% 0.54% 0.90% 1.16% -0.13% 1.42% 0.86% 1.17% 0.40% 0.58% 0.70% 1.01% 0.72%
Consumer Services 0.96% 1.12% 1.47% 1.42% 0.49% 1.22% 0.65% 0.79% 0.82% 1.17% 1.09% 1.29% 0.90%
Fixed Investment 0.18% 0.54% 0.21% 1.10% 1.34% 1.04% 0.44% 0.72% 1.60% 0.28% 0.52% 0.46% 0.31%
Inventories 0.60% 0.11% 2.33% -1.17% 0.27% -0.91% 1.04% 0.23% -0.80% 1.03% -0.59% -0.62% -0.62%
Government 0.42% -0.07% 0.44% 0.43% 0.27% 0.41% -0.18% 0.01% -0.13% 0.03% 0.17% -0.15% 0.60%
Exports 0.58% 0.22% -0.62% 1.12% 0.43% 0.79% 0.42% 0.44% 0.59% -0.44% 0.71% 0.39% -0.31%
Imports 0.39% -0.30% -1.37% 0.10% -0.45% -1.68% -0.41% -0.36% -0.69% -0.88% -0.68% -0.10% -0.06%
Real Final Sales 2.47% 2.05% 1.03% 5.33% 1.95% 3.20% 1.78% 2.77% 2.59 0.74% 2.51% 2.90% 2.16%





Summary and Commentary

Several key points can be taken from this revision for the 1st quarter of 2019 :

-- The BEA confirmed that consumer spending on goods contracted. Meanwhile, the already relatively soft growth in services spending was left unchanged.

-- The annualized growth in commercial and private fixed investments more than halved relative to the prior quarter.

-- Imports added +0.39% annualized growth to the headline, even though it actually reflects softening import spending in the midst of generally weaker global trade.

-- The BEA's headline number was more that doubled by an inflation rate that was materially at odds with the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

-- Nevertheless, this revision left the headline number in the "Goldilocks" zone of economic growth.

The question remains: Are these fair skies a sign of a well-oiled and unstoppable economy? Or is this merely the calm before the next storm?
 
     
     
  April 26, 2019 - BEA Estimates 1st Quarter 2019 GDP Growth at 3.18%:

In their first (preliminary) estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2019, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +3.18% annual rate, up +1.02 percentage points (pp) from the prior quarter.

The good news in the report came from significantly positive contributions from inventories, governmental spending and foreign trade. The bad news is that the growth rates for the "meat and potatoes" portion of the economy -- consumer spending on goods and services, and fixed investment -- all weakened quarter-to-quarter.

Consumer spending on goods contracted at a -0.14% annualized rate during the quarter, down -0.68pp from the prior quarter. This was accompanied by weaker growth in consumer spending on services, which dropped -0.16pp from the prior quarter to a +0.98% growth rate. And commercial/private fixed investment grew at a lower +0.27% annualized rate, down -0.27pp from the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile two thirds of the reported annualized growth came from non-core line items: inventories grew at a +0.65% annualized rate (up +0.54pp from the prior quarter), governmental spending grew at a +0.41% annualized rate (up +0.48pp from the fourth quarter), exports grew at a +0.45% annualized rate (up +0.23pp from the prior quarter), and imports added yet another +0.58pp to the headline number (up a significant +0.88pp from 4Q-2018).

Household disposable income was reported to be up +$200 per annum on a quarter over quarter basis, and the household savings rate was reported to have grown to 7.0% (up +0.2pp from the prior quarter) as consumers spent less on goods.

For this estimate the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 0.64%. During the same quarter (January 2019 through March 2019) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was materially higher at 2.27%. 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 halved to a +1.56% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- Consumer spending for goods contracted during the first quarter of 2019. The headline contribution from consumer goods spending was reported to be -0.14%, down -0.68pp from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was reported to be +0.96%, down -0.16pp from the prior quarter. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was reported to be down -0.84pp from the prior quarter, marking the third consecutive quarter of weakening growth in consumer spending.

-- The headline contribution for commercial/private fixed investments was reported to be +0.27%, down -0.27pp from the prior quarter. Although investment in residential construction continued to contract, the biggest change came from weakening commercial spending on equipment.

-- Inventories boosted the headline number by +0.65pp, up +0.54pp 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.

-- During the quarter containing the "Great Shutdown," Federal spending was reported to be flat while state and local spending rebounded enough to provide a combined +0.41% annualized governmental spending growth rate, up +0.48pp from the prior quarter.

-- The annualized growth in exports was reported to be +0.45%, up +0.23pp from the prior quarter.

-- Although imports normally subtract from the headline number, in the first quarter imports actually added +0.58% annualized "growth" to the headline number (after subtracting -0.30% annualized "growth" during the prior quarter) -- economic "growth" by virtue of fewer dollars of imported goods. This is imports' greatest positive boost to the headline since 4Q-2012, and it reflects the second consecutive quarterly contraction in the value of imported goods. In aggregate, foreign trade added +1.03% annualized growth to the headline number.

-- The annualized growth in the "real final sales of domestic product" increased to +2.53%, up +0.48pp 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 $200 quarter over quarter. The annualized household savings rate was also reported to have increased to 7.0% (up +0.2pp from the prior quarter), providing the offset to the contracting spending for consumer goods.




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) $21.1 = $14.3 + $3.8 + $3.6 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.00% = 67.66% + 18.11% + 17.09% + -2.86%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.18% = 0.82% + 0.92% + 0.41% + 1.03%


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-2019 4Q-2018 3Q-2018 2Q-2018 1Q-2018 4Q-2017 3Q-2017 2Q-2017 1Q-2017 4Q-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016
Total GDP Growth 3.18% 2.16% 3.36% 4.16% 2.22% 2.29% 2.82% 3.00% 1.79% 1.77% 1.92% 2.28% 1.54%
Consumer Goods -0.14% 0.54% 0.90% 1.16% -0.13% 1.42% 0.86% 1.17% 0.40% 0.58% 0.70% 1.01% 0.72%
Consumer Services 0.96% 1.12% 1.47% 1.42% 0.49% 1.22% 0.65% 0.79% 0.82% 1.17% 1.09% 1.29% 0.90%
Fixed Investment 0.27% 0.54% 0.21% 1.10% 1.34% 1.04% 0.44% 0.72% 1.60% 0.28% 0.52% 0.46% 0.31%
Inventories 0.65% 0.11% 2.33% -1.17% 0.27% -0.91% 1.04% 0.23% -0.80% 1.03% -0.59% -0.62% -0.62%
Government 0.41% -0.07% 0.44% 0.43% 0.27% 0.41% -0.18% 0.01% -0.13% 0.03% 0.17% -0.15% 0.60%
Exports 0.45% 0.22% -0.62% 1.12% 0.43% 0.79% 0.42% 0.44% 0.59% -0.44% 0.71% 0.39% -0.31%
Imports 0.58% -0.30% -1.37% 0.10% -0.45% -1.68% -0.41% -0.36% -0.69% -0.88% -0.68% -0.10% -0.06%
Real Final Sales 2.53% 2.05% 1.03% 5.33% 1.95% 3.20% 1.78% 2.77% 2.59 0.74% 2.51% 2.90% 2.16%





Summary and Commentary

Several key points can be taken from this first report for the 1st quarter of 2019 :

-- Consumer spending on goods contracted. The growth in consumer spending on services (which is generally much less elastic) softened yet again. And the annualized growth in commercial and private fixed investments halved relative to the prior quarter.

-- Furloughing Federal workers may depress aggregate consumer spending, but it ultimately has no net effect whatsoever on total Federal expenditures.

-- The fact that imports added +0.58% annualized growth to the headline may be good for the headline, but it actually reflects softening import prices in the midst of generally weaker global trade.

-- Ultimately, and despite weaker core spending, the headline number rebounded into the "Goldilocks" zone of economic growth. We expect that policy makers will be really proud of this report.

Unfortunately, that "Goldilocks" moment was achieved through growing inventories, increased governmental outlays, crashing import values and materially understated inflation. The temperature of the porridge might be just right, but the taste seems a little off.
 
     


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