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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:07/201608/201609/201610/201611/201612/201601/201702/201703/201704/2017
Value:101.17100.8897.4096.2295.1994.7094.4990.9992.4696.95


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 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.
 
     
     
  March 30, 2017 - BEA Revision Revises 4th Quarter 2016 GDP Growth Upward To 2.08%:

In their third and final estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economy was growing at a +2.08% annual rate, up slightly from the +1.85% previously reported but down by -1.45% from the prior quarter.

The improvement in the reported growth came primarily from increased consumer spending on services, with smaller increases in consumer goods spending and inventories also boosting the headline number. Offsetting those increases were continued weakening in commercial fixed investment, governmental spending and foreign trade.

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes the growing inventories) grew slightly to +1.07%, although it remained down nearly 2% (-1.97%) from 3Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was reported to have grown by $123 quarter-to-quarter, to an annualized $39,477 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate weakened slightly to 5.5%.

For the fourth quarter the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.10%. During the same quarter (October 2016 through December 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 3.05%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly over optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been at a +1.17% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was revised upward to a +1.29% growth rate (up +0.06% from the previous report and +0.52% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was revised upward to +1.11% (up +0.30% from the previous report but still down -0.15% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.40%, up +0.37 from 3Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was reported to be +0.46%, down -0.05% from the previous report but up +0.44 from the prior quarter. That growth is about equally split between residential and commercial construction.

-- The contribution from inventories was revised upward by +0.07% to +1.01%, which was more than double the +0.49% growth rate recorded during the prior quarter. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The headline contribution from governmental spending was halved to +0.03%, roughly a fifth of the growth rate from the prior quarter. The entirety of this quarter-to-quarter growth was accounted for by state and local capital expenditures.

-- Exports weakened further and remained in contraction at -0.55%, down -1.71% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports subtracted another -1.27% from the headline number, down -0.96% from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade subtracted -1.82% from the headline number (a -2.67% change from the prior quarter).

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" remained relatively weak at +1.07%, down nearly 2% (-1.97%) 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 $123 quarter-to-quarter. At the same time the household savings rate weakened slightly to 5.5%, some -0.6% lower than the level recorded in the second quarter of 2016. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.63% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.87% growth rate over the past 34 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) $18.9 = $13.0 + $3.1 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.94% + 16.44% + 17.51% + -2.89%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.08% = 2.40% + 1.47% + 0.03% + -1.82%


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-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013
Total GDP Growth 2.08% 3.53% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18% 3.96% 3.12% 0.78% 2.83%
Consumer Goods 1.29% 0.77% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54% 0.90% 0.67% 0.30% 1.30%
Consumer Services 1.11% 1.26% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73% 1.39% 0.61% 0.28% 0.02%
Fixed Investment 0.46% 0.02% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79% 1.01% 0.48% 0.70% 1.12%
Inventories 1.01% 0.49% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89% -0.11% 1.60% 0.08% 0.92%
Government 0.03% 0.14% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19% -0.53% -0.37% -0.37% -0.83%
Exports -0.55% 1.16% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39% 1.54% 0.41% 0.65% 0.52%
Imports -1.27% -0.31% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77% -0.24% -0.28% -0.86% -0.22%
Real Final Sales 1.07% 3.04% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71% 4.07% 1.52% 0.70% 1.91%





Summary and Commentary

This revision continued the trend of a "not great, but on the other hand not really bad" headline. The primary source of the growth also continued to shift from commercial investments to consumers. Notable in the report were the following:

-- In the prior quarter the BEA reported that the US GDP was growing at a 3.53% annualized rate. Now that growth has dropped by -1.45%.

-- The BEA's "bottom line" final sales growth rate dropped quarter-to-quarter by nearly -2%.

-- Foreign trade continues to crash, with no particular relief in sight.

-- The inflation neutralizing deflator the BEA used (+2.10%) was materially below the inflation rate recorded by the BEA's sister agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (+3.05%). Using the BLS data to deflate the numbers results in a 1.17% growth rate.

For the moment this closes the BEA's book on the fourth quarter of 2016. A roughly 2% growth rate is certainly acceptable, but it is not the sort of growth rate that normally generates delirious optimism in the equity markets. Next month we should begin to find out how much of that optimism is economically warranted.
 
     
     
  February 28, 2017 - BEA Revision Revises 4th Quarter 2016 GDP Growth To 1.85%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economic growth rate was +1.85%, essentially unchanged from the +1.87% previously reported but down by nearly half (-1.68%) from the prior quarter.

Although there was no material change in the headline number, the composition of that number was revised in several ways. Consumer spending on goods and services was revised upward by an aggregate of +0.35%. Meanwhile fixed commercial investment, inventories and governmental spending were revised in aggregate downward by -0.37% -- completely offsetting the consumer gains.

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes the growing inventories) continues to record a sub 1% growth rate (+0.91%), down over 2% (-2.13%) from 3Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was reported to have grown by $127 quarter-to-quarter, to an annualized $39,481 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate was unchanged at 5.6%.

For the fourth quarter the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.03%. During the same quarter (October 2016 through December 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 3.05%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly over optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been below 1%, at a +0.87% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was revised upward to a +1.23% growth rate (up +0.12% from the previous report and +0.46% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services was revised upward to +0.81% (up +0.23% from the previous report but still down -0.45% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.04%, essentially unchanged from 3Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was reported to be +0.51%, down -0.16% from the previous report but up +0.49 from the prior quarter. That growth is about equally split between residential and commercial construction.

-- The contribution from inventories was revised downward by -0.06% to +0.94%, which was still nearly double the +0.49% growth rate recorded during the prior quarter. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The previous positive headline contribution from governmental spending was revised downward by -0.15% to +0.06%, less than a third of the number in the previous report. The entirety of this revision and the remaining quarter-to-quarter growth was accounted for by state and local capital expenditures.

-- Exports remained in contraction at -0.50%, down -1.66% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports subtracted another -1.20% from the headline number, down -0.89% from the prior quarter. In aggregate, foreign trade subtracted -1.70% from the headline number.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" remained essentially unchanged at a relatively weak +0.91%, down over 2% (-2.13%) 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 $127 quarter-to-quarter. At the same time the household savings rate remained unchanged at 5.6%, some -0.3% lower than the level recorded in the second quarter of 2016. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.65% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.87% growth rate over the past 34 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) $18.9 = $13.0 + $3.1 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.89% + 16.44% + 17.53% + -2.86%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.85% = 2.04% + 1.45% + 0.06% + -1.70%


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-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013
Total GDP Growth 1.85% 3.53% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18% 3.96% 3.12% 0.78% 2.83%
Consumer Goods 1.23% 0.77% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54% 0.90% 0.67% 0.30% 1.30%
Consumer Services 0.81% 1.26% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73% 1.39% 0.61% 0.28% 0.02%
Fixed Investment 0.51% 0.02% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79% 1.01% 0.48% 0.70% 1.12%
Inventories 0.94% 0.49% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89% -0.11% 1.60% 0.08% 0.92%
Government 0.06% 0.14% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19% -0.53% -0.37% -0.37% -0.83%
Exports -0.50% 1.16% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39% 1.54% 0.41% 0.65% 0.52%
Imports -1.20% -0.31% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77% -0.24% -0.28% -0.86% -0.22%
Real Final Sales 0.91% 3.04% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71% 4.07% 1.52% 0.70% 1.91%





Summary and Commentary

This revision was material only because the source components of the "not great, but on the other hand not really bad" headline were shifted in a zero-sum way from commercial investments and governmental expenditures to consumers. Notable in the report were the following:

-- In the prior quarter (covering the pre-election economy), the BEA reported that the US GDP was growing at a 3.53% annualized rate. Now that growth has been essentially halved.

-- The BEA's own "bottom line" final sales growth rate dropped over 2% and was below 1% (+0.91%) -- once growing inventories were factored out.

-- The inflation neutralizing deflator they used (+2.03%) was materially below the inflation rate recorded by the BEA's sister agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (+3.05%). Using the BLS data to deflate the numbers also results in a sub 1% growth rate (+0.87%).

As we mentioned last month, the fourth quarter was just "kind of, sort of" OK. Meanwhile, the BEA's "bottom line" sub 1% growth rate is somewhat less than OK. It will be interesting to see just how this headline holds up in the upcoming revisions.
 
     
     
  January 27, 2017 - BEA Estimates 4th Quarter 2016 GDP at 1.87%:

In their first (preliminary) estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the US economic growth rate was +1.87%, down by nearly half (-1.66%) from the prior quarter.

The quarter to quarter decline in the headline growth rate came from a number of sources: the growth of consumer spending on services was more than halved (down -0.68%), exports went into contraction (off a dramatic -1.69%) and imports were down yet another -0.86%. Partially offsetting those declines were upticks in consumer spending on goods (up +0.34%), and increases in the growth rate for commercial fixed investment (+0.65%) and inventories (+0.51%).

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes the growing inventories) recorded a sub 1% growth rate (+0.87%), down over 2% (-2.17%) from 3Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was reported to have grown by $177 quarter-to-quarter, to an annualized $39,405 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate decreased by -0.2% to 5.6%.

For the fourth quarter the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.12%. During the same quarter (October 2016 through December 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 3.41%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly over optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been much lower, at a +0.62% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods increased to a +1.11% growth rate (up +0.34% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services declined to +0.58% (down -0.68% from the prior quarter). Most of the decline appeared in spending for housing and utilities. The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.69%, down -0.34% from 3Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was +0.67%, up +0.65 from an essentially flat prior quarter. That growth is about equally split between residential and commercial construction.

-- The contribution from inventories was +1.00%, more than double the +0.49% growth rate recorded during the prior quarter. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The positive headline contribution from governmental spending improved by +0.07% to +0.21%. The entirety of this increase was in state and local capital expenditures, with Federal expenditures contracting (-0.08%, as expected) as they "gave back" the fiscal year-end spending previously moved forward -- a recurring annual phenomenon that artificially boosts pre-election economic reports.

-- Exports crashed into contraction (-0.53%) quarter-to-quarter, down -1.69% from the prior quarter.

-- Imports subtracted yet another -1.17% from the headline number, down -0.86% from the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" was a relatively weak +0.87%, down over 2% (-2.17%) 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 $177 quarter-to-quarter. At the same time the household savings rate declined yet another -0.2% to 5.6%, now some -0.3% lower than the level recorded in the second quarter of 2016. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.44% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.85% growth rate over the past 34 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) $18.9 = $13.0 + $3.1 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.00% = 68.82% + 16.47% + 17.56% + -2.85%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.87% = 1.69% + 1.67% + 0.21% + -1.70%


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-2016 3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013
Total GDP Growth 1.87% 3.53% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18% 3.96% 3.12% 0.78% 2.83%
Consumer Goods 1.11% 0.77% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54% 0.90% 0.67% 0.30% 1.30%
Consumer Services 0.58% 1.26% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73% 1.39% 0.61% 0.28% 0.02%
Fixed Investment 0.67% 0.02% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79% 1.01% 0.48% 0.70% 1.12%
Inventories 1.00% 0.49% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89% -0.11% 1.60% 0.08% 0.92%
Government 0.21% 0.14% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19% -0.53% -0.37% -0.37% -0.83%
Exports -0.53% 1.16% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39% 1.54% 0.41% 0.65% 0.52%
Imports -1.17% -0.31% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77% -0.24% -0.28% -0.86% -0.22%
Real Final Sales 0.87% 3.04% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71% 4.07% 1.52% 0.70% 1.91%





Summary and Commentary

In their prior report that covered the pre-election economy, the BEA told us that the US GDP was growing at a 3.53% annualized rate -- a "happy days are here again" kind of number. Now we are told that during the fourth quarter those happy numbers were essentially halved. And even that headline may have been optimistic:

-- The BEA's own "bottom line" final sales growth rate dropped over 2% and was below 1% (+0.87%) -- once rapidly growing inventories were factored out.

-- The inflation neutralizing deflator they used (+2.12%) was materially below the inflation rate recorded by the BEA's sister agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (+3.41%). Using the BLS data to deflate the numbers also results in a sub 1% growth rate (+0.62%).

-- We can expect the trade numbers to change materially in the next two monthly revisions.

As we mentioned last month, December's 3.5% third quarter growth rate was truly impressive. January's fourth quarter 1.9% is just "kind of, sort of" OK. And the BEA's "bottom line" sub 1% growth rate is somewhat less than OK. It will be interesting to see just how this headline holds up in the upcoming revisions.
 
     
     
  December 22, 2016 - BEA Revises 3rd Quarter 2016 GDP Upward to 3.53%:

In their third and final estimate of the US GDP for the third quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the growth rate was +3.53%, up +0.38% from their previous estimate and up +2.11% from the prior quarter.

The improvement in the headline number was broadly based: +0.14% came from higher consumer spending, +0.17% was from more fixed investment spending, and +0.09 of it came from additional governmental spending. None of the other changes were material, with the normally noisy inventory and import numbers completely unchanged.

The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product", which excludes inventory growth or contraction) recorded a +3.04% growth rate, up +0.38% from the previous estimate and now up +0.46% from 2Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was revised downward by a non-material $6 quarter-to-quarter, to an annualized $39,228 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate was revised downward -0.1% to 5.8%.

For this revision the BEA assumed the same effective annualized deflator as last month, 1.39%. During the same quarter (July 2016 through September 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 1.84%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been lower, at a +3.14% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods increased to a +0.77% growth rate (although it is still down a material -0.74% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services improved to +1.26% (which also remains down -0.11% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.03%, down a significant -0.85% from 2Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was revised to a positive +0.02, breaking a three quarter string of fixed investment contraction.

-- The contribution from inventories was unchanged, although it is still up up a dramatic +1.65% from 2Q-2016 -- after a string of five consecutive quarters of contraction. It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The positive headline contribution from governmental spending improved by +0.09% to +0.14%. This remained up an historically large +0.44% from the prior quarter, and it was entirely in Federal spending (state and local spending was still reported to be contracting). This momentary growth was almost certainly due to increased Federal fiscal year-end ("spend every last budgeted dime -- even if we can't possibly use whatever it is that we are buying") spending -- a recurring annual phenomenon that is accompanied by an offsetting fourth calendar quarter (first fiscal quarter) reversal of that growth.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports softened slightly to +1.16% (down -0.02% in this revision but up +0.95% from the prior quarter).

-- Imports subtracted -0.31% from the headline number, unchanged in this revision but down -0.28% from the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" was revised upward +0.38% to +3.04%, up a material +0.46% 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 weakened very slightly quarter-to-quarter in this report. At the same time the household savings rate was lowered to 5.8%, -0.1% lower than the level recorded in the second quarter of 2016. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.96% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.82% growth rate over the past 33 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) $18.7 = $12.8 + $3.0 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.7% + 16.2% + 17.6% + -2.5%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.53% = 2.03% + 0.51% + 0.14% + 0.85%


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-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013
Total GDP Growth 3.53% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18% 3.96% 3.12% 0.78% 2.83%
Consumer Goods 0.77% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54% 0.90% 0.67% 0.30% 1.30%
Consumer Services 1.26% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73% 1.39% 0.61% 0.28% 0.02%
Fixed Investment 0.02% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79% 1.01% 0.48% 0.70% 1.12%
Inventories 0.49% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89% -0.11% 1.60% 0.08% 0.92%
Government 0.14% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19% -0.53% -0.37% -0.37% -0.83%
Exports 1.16% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39% 1.54% 0.41% 0.65% 0.52%
Imports -0.31% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77% -0.24% -0.28% -0.86% -0.22%
Real Final Sales 3.04% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71% 4.07% 1.52% 0.70% 1.91%





Summary and Commentary

The headline number has now been revised into a very healthy annualized growth rate slightly in excess of 3.5%. It is also good that the upward revision was broadly based -- reflecting both higher consumer spending and commercial investment. Some items of note in the report were:

-- The prior quarter's growth in consumer spending still took a major quarter-to-quarter hit. We believe that it is plausible that the "fear, uncertainty and doubt" (FUD) surrounding the election campaign contributed to lousy consumer sentiments and the corresponding consumer spending malaise. Although some portion of that has probably carried over into the current quarter, it may bode well for early 2017 as the "FUD" fades.

-- A large share of the reported "growth" in Federal spending has most likely only been brought forward from the 4Q-2016.

A 3.5% growth rate is impressive at any time, and it is especially so when domestic inflation is under 2% and comparable European growth is stuck at a rate that is a full 3% lower.
 
     


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