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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:08/201509/201510/201511/201512/201501/201602/201603/201604/201605/2016
Value:98.4696.3397.4996.6096.0595.6894.6192.5089.7984.22


Daily Growth Index Past 60 Days


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


 


Daily Growth Index -vs- Full GDP Past 48 Months


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


 


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


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


 


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


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


 


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


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


 


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


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


 

Commentary


     
  May 27, 2016 - BEA Revises 1st Quarter 2016 GDP Growth Upward To +0.82%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) revised the growth rate upward to +0.82%, up 0.28% from their previous estimate but still down -0.56% from from the +1.38% rate recorded for the fourth quarter of 2015.

Roughly half of the upward revision came from inventory adjustments, which were reported to have contracted at a -0.20% annualized rate -- an improvement of +0.13% from the -0.33% previously reported and about the same as the prior quarter's -0.22% contraction rate. None of the other line items were revised by more than 0.06% either way.

The BEA's treatment of inventories can introduce noise and seriously distort the headline number over short terms -- which the BEA admits by also publishing a secondary headline that excludes the impact of inventories. The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product") improved +0.15% to +1.02%, although that was still down -0.58% from the prior quarter.

Annualized household disposable income improved significantly in this revision. Real annualized per capita disposable income was reported to be $38,710 per annum, up $199 per year from the previous estimate. The household savings rate also sharply increased to 5.7%.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 0.61%. During the same quarter (January 2016 through March 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was mildly dis-inflationary at -0.20%. Over estimating inflation results in correspondingly pessimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would be a significantly better +1.63%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods improved slightly to +0.09% growth (although that figure still represented a -0.27% decline from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer services was revised down further to +1.20% (down +0.10% from the fourth quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.29%, down -0.37% (about one-fourth) from 4Q-2015 -- which in turn was down one-fourth from 3Q-2015. This report represents the third consecutive quarter of materially weaker growth in consumer spending.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments remained negative at -0.25%, down -0.31% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution from inventories remained negative, subtracting -0.20% from the headline number. This was essentially flat from the -0.22% recorded in 4Q-2015. It bears repeating that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy, subject to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price swings while representing a zero reverting (and long term zero sum) series.

-- In this revision Governmental spending was unchanged, adding +0.20% to the headline. This growth was entirely due to increased capital spending at state and local levels, with Federal spending actually contracting -0.11%.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports remained in contraction at -0.25% (flat relative to the prior quarter).

-- Imports added +0.03% to the headline number, down -0.08% from the somewhat greater growth reported for the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" improved +0.15% to +1.02%, although that was still down a significant -0.58% from the prior quarter, and down -1.68% from 3Q-2015. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory contraction.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was reported to be up $199 in this report, and the household savings rate increased significantly in concert with the strengthening incomes. It is important to keep this line item in perspective. Real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +5.54% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.70% growth rate over the past 31 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) $18.2 = $12.5 + $3.0 + $3.2 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.7% + 16.5% + 17.6% + -2.8%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 0.82% = 1.29% + -0.45% + 0.20% + -0.22%


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

Quarterly Changes in % Contributions to GDP

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 0.82% 1.38% 1.99% 3.92% 0.64% 2.07% 4.27% 4.56% -0.91% 3.82% 2.98% 1.11% 1.91%
Consumer Goods 0.09% 0.36% 1.08% 1.20% 0.25% 0.91% 0.91% 1.49% 0.25% 0.70% 0.60% 0.28% 1.39%
Consumer Services 1.20% 1.30% 0.96% 1.23% 0.94% 1.95% 1.42% 1.11% 0.61% 1.66% 0.57% 0.68% 0.36%
Fixed Investment -0.25% 0.06% 0.60% 0.83% 0.52% 0.39% 1.23% 0.87% 0.91% 0.79% 0.59% 0.40% 0.77%
Inventories -0.20% -0.22% -0.71% 0.02% 0.87% -0.03% -0.01% 1.12% -1.29% -0.08% 1.48% 0.38% 0.28%
Government 0.20% 0.02% 0.32% 0.46% -0.01% -0.26% 0.33% 0.21% 0.00% -0.51% -0.42% -0.38% -0.88%
Exports -0.25% -0.25% 0.09% 0.64% -0.81% 0.71% 0.24% 1.28% -0.95% 1.42% 0.55% 0.64% 0.12%
Imports 0.03% 0.11% -0.35% -0.46% -1.12% -1.60% 0.15% -1.52% -0.44% -0.16% -0.39% -0.89% -0.13%
Real Final Sales 1.02% 1.60% 2.70% 3.90% -0.23% 2.10% 4.28% 3.44% 0.38% 3.90% 1.50% 0.73% 1.63%





Summary and Commentary

Once again BEA's report did not show a robust economy. The minor revisions posted in this report were not statistically significant, and the past three quarters continue to show a slow-motion slide towards economic stagnation.

From our perspective the key items in this report are:

-- Private commercial investment remains in contraction.

-- Consumer spending remains weak, repeating a dip very similar to one recorded in the first quarter of 2015 (even though the numbers are reported to be already "seasonally adjusted"). Non-discretionary spending on health care and housing provided most of the growth in consumer services spending.

-- The above spending remained weak even as per capita disposable income improved. All of that increased disposable income was channeled into household savings -- which now stands at 5.7%, the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2012. Clearly households are not so confident that they are freely spending whatever increased pocket money they may have.

Perhaps the hesitance of households to spend is an indication that the first quarter's stagnant economic environment is beginning to collide with a couple of quarters of domestic political "fear, uncertainty and doubt" (FUD). Unfortunately, whatever meager confidence households may have is not likely to improve over the next several quarters of unrelenting media turmoil.
 
     
     
  April 28, 2016 - BEA Estimates 1st Quarter 2016 GDP Growth At +0.54%:

In their first "preliminary" estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was growing at a +0.54% annualized rate, down -0.84% (well more than half) from the +1.38% rate recorded for the fourth quarter of 2015.

The reasons for the -0.84% decline in the headline number were numerous, with much lower contributions from both consumer expenditures for goods (-0.33%) and commercial fixed investment (-0.33%) having the greatest impact. Imports (-0.13%), inventories (-0.11%), consumer services (-0.06%), and exports (-0.06%) continued the quarter-over-quarter declines in growth rates. Only governmental spending showed an improved contribution to the headline number improved relative to 4Q-2015 (+0.20%).

The BEA's treatment of inventories can introduce noise and seriously distort the headline number over short terms -- which the BEA admits by also publishing a secondary headline that excludes the impact of inventories. The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product") was essentially cut in half relative to the prior quarter, dropping from +1.60% to +0.87%.

Annualized household disposable income improved in this report. Real annualized per capita disposable income was reported to be $38,511 per annum, up $208 per year from the prior quarter. The household savings rate also increased to 5.2%.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 0.70%. During the same quarter (January 2016 through March 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was mildly dis-inflationary at -0.20%. Slightly over estimating inflation results in slightly pessimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would be a significantly better +1.45%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was cut to an essentially flat +0.03% (down -0.33% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer services declined to +1.24% (down +0.06% from the fourth quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.27%, down -0.39% (about one-fourth) from 4Q-2015 -- which in turn was down one-fourth from 3Q-2015. This report represents the third consecutive quarter of materially weaker growth in consumer spending.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments turned negative at -0.27%, down -0.33% from the prior quarter. This is the first contraction in commercial fixed investment since the first quarter of 2011.

-- The contribution from inventories remained negative, subtracting -0.33% from the headline number. This was a weakening of -0.11% from the -0.22% recorded in 4Q-2015. It bears repeating that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy, subject to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price swings while representing a zero reverting (and long term zero sum) series.

-- Governmental spending added +0.20% to the headline. This was entirely due to increased capital spending at state and local levels, with Federal spending actually contracting -0.11%.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports remained in contraction at -0.31% (down -0.06% from the prior quarter).

-- Imports deducted -0.02% from the headline number, down -0.13% from the mild arithmetic growth reported for the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" was down a significant -0.73% from the prior quarter, and down nearly 2% from 3Q-2015. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory contraction.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was reported to be up $208 in this report, while the household savings rate increased in concert with the strengthening incomes. However, it is important to keep this line item in perspective. Real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +5% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.63% growth rate over the past 31 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) $18.2 = $12.5 + $3.0 + $3.2 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.7% + 16.5% + 17.6% + -2.8%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 0.54% = 1.27% + -0.60% + 0.20% + -0.33%


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-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 0.54% 1.38% 1.99% 3.92% 0.64% 2.07% 4.27% 4.56% -0.91% 3.82% 2.98% 1.11% 1.91%
Consumer Goods 0.03% 0.36% 1.08% 1.20% 0.25% 0.91% 0.91% 1.49% 0.25% 0.70% 0.60% 0.28% 1.39%
Consumer Services 1.24% 1.30% 0.96% 1.23% 0.94% 1.95% 1.42% 1.11% 0.61% 1.66% 0.57% 0.68% 0.36%
Fixed Investment -0.27% 0.06% 0.60% 0.83% 0.52% 0.39% 1.23% 0.87% 0.91% 0.79% 0.59% 0.40% 0.77%
Inventories -0.33% -0.22% -0.71% 0.02% 0.87% -0.03% -0.01% 1.12% -1.29% -0.08% 1.48% 0.38% 0.28%
Government 0.20% 0.02% 0.32% 0.46% -0.01% -0.26% 0.33% 0.21% 0.00% -0.51% -0.42% -0.38% -0.88%
Exports -0.31% -0.25% 0.09% 0.64% -0.81% 0.71% 0.24% 1.28% -0.95% 1.42% 0.55% 0.64% 0.12%
Imports -0.02% 0.11% -0.35% -0.46% -1.12% -1.60% 0.15% -1.52% -0.44% -0.16% -0.39% -0.89% -0.13%
Real Final Sales 0.87% 1.60% 2.70% 3.90% -0.23% 2.10% 4.28% 3.44% 0.38% 3.90% 1.50% 0.73% 1.63%





Summary and Commentary

Although the headline remained positive, this is not a report that shows a robust economy. Among the troubling aspects of the report:

-- The growth rate for consumer spending took another significant hit, dropping substantially for the third consecutive quarter. In fact, the growth rate for consumer spending on goods was barely positive, at a miserable +0.03%. And non-discretionary spending on health care and housing provided most of the remaining growth in consumer services spending.

-- Private investment contracted for the first time since the first quarter of 2011.

-- Exports went deeper into the red.

Looking at the past three quarters as a group, we can see a slow-motion slide into either stagnation or contraction. It is truly sad when stagnation looks to be the better alternative.
 
     
     
  March 25, 2016 - BEA Revises 4th Quarter 2015 GDP Growth Upward to 1.38%:

In their third and final estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2015, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was growing at a +1.38% annualized rate, up +0.38% from their previous estimate for the fourth quarter, but still down -0.61% from the third quarter.

The improvement was broadly based, with the revision to consumer expenditures for services having the greatest impact (+0.34%). Exports (+0.09%) and imports (+0.02%) also improved, as did commercial fixed investment (+0.04%) and governmental expenditures (+0.03%).

However economic growth provided by consumer spending on goods was revised downward still further, with the contribution to the headline growth dropping another -0.06%. And the contribution from inventories removed another -0.08% from the headline.

The BEA's treatment of inventories can introduce noise and seriously distort the headline number over short terms -- which the BEA admits by also publishing a secondary headline that excludes the impact of inventories. The BEA's "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product") was significantly improved in this revision, gaining +0.46% -- although it remains over a full percent lower than was reported for the prior quarter.

Annualized household disposable income was revised slightly downward in this report. Real annualized per capita disposable income was reported to be $38,303 per annum, down $17 from the previous estimate. The household savings rate was revised downward to 5.0% -- which is now unchanged from the prior quarter.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 0.94%. During the same quarter (October 2015 through December 2015) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was a very similar 0.93%. Slightly over estimating inflation results in slightly pessimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would be a marginally better +1.41%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was cut to +0.36% (down -0.06% from the earlier estimate and down -0.72% -- more than two thirds -- from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer services improved substantially to +1.30% (up +0.34% from the previous report and also up +0.34% from the third quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.66%, down -0.38% (about one-fourth) from 3Q-2015.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments remained minor at +0.06%, and down a material -0.54% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution from inventories remained negative, subtracting -0.22% from the headline number. This was an improvement of +0.49% from the -0.71% recorded in 3Q-2015. It bears repeating that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy, subject to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price swings while representing a zero reverting (and long term zero sum) series.

-- Governmental spending added +0.02% to the headline. This is down -0.30% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports remained in contraction at -0.25% (up +0.09% from the previous estimate but down -0.34% from the prior quarter).

-- Imports generated +0.11% growth in the BEA's model of the economy, up some +0.02% from the previous report and up +0.46% from the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" was up a significant +0.46% from the previous estimate, and is now reported to be growing at a +1.60% annualized rate. However, this remains down more than a full percent from the +2.70% in the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory contraction.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was revised slightly downward by $17 in this report, while the household savings rate declined in concert with the softening incomes. It is important to keep this line item in perspective. Real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +4.43% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.58% growth rate over the past 30 quarters. Meanwhile, according to Sentier Research, median incomes during the same time span have contracted by roughly 4%.




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) $18.2 = $12.4 + $3.0 + $3.2 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.5% + 16.7% + 17.6% + -2.8%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.38% = 1.66% + -0.16% + 0.02% + -0.14%


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

Quarterly Changes in % Contributions to GDP

4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013 4Q-2012 3Q-2012 2Q-2012 1Q-2012
Total GDP Growth 1.38% 1.99% 3.92% 0.64% 2.07% 4.27% 4.56% -0.91% 3.82% 2.98% 1.11% 1.91% 0.10% 0.50% 1.89% 2.67%
Consumer Goods 0.36% 1.08% 1.20% 0.25% 0.91% 0.91% 1.49% 0.25% 0.70% 0.60% 0.28% 1.39% 0.53% 0.63% 0.26% 1.11%
Consumer Services 1.30% 0.96% 1.23% 0.94% 1.95% 1.42% 1.11% 0.61% 1.66% 0.57% 0.68% 0.36% 0.25% 0.10% 0.20% 0.52%
Fixed Investment 0.06% 0.60% 0.83% 0.52% 0.39% 1.23% 0.87% 0.91% 0.79% 0.59% 0.40% 0.77% 1.03% 0.00% 0.98% 2.00%
Inventories -0.22% -0.71% 0.02% 0.87% -0.03% -0.01% 1.12% -1.29% -0.08% 1.48% 0.38% 0.28% -1.54% -0.18% 0.56% -0.53%
Government 0.02% 0.32% 0.46% -0.01% -0.26% 0.33% 0.21% 0.00% -0.51% -0.42% -0.38% -0.88% -0.75% -0.22% -0.39% -0.40%
Exports -0.25% 0.09% 0.64% -0.81% 0.71% 0.24% 1.28% -0.95% 1.42% 0.55% 0.64% 0.12% -0.07% 0.27% 0.61% 0.37%
Imports 0.11% -0.35% -0.46% -1.12% -1.60% 0.15% -1.52% -0.44% -0.16% -0.39% -0.89% -0.13% 0.65% -0.10% -0.33% -0.40%
Real Final Sales 1.60% 2.70% 3.90% -0.23% 2.10% 4.28% 3.44% 0.38% 3.90% 1.50% 0.73% 1.63% 1.64% 0.68% 1.33% 3.20%





Summary and Commentary

At face value this report shows the U.S. to be the healthiest and fastest growing major developed economy -- which perhaps says much more about the global situation than it does about the domestic environment. Sadly, seven consecutive quarters of measurable growth and back-to-back quarters of slightly more than anemic growth (> +1%) does provide serious global bragging rights. And when ignoring inventories (which is highly recommended) that domestic growth becomes almost respectable at +1.60%.

Peeking ahead, GDPNow from the Atlanta Fed is forecasting a very similar growth report for the first quarter of 2016 -- although that forecast has been tracking downward of late and is now below "consensus" expectations.

All of which frames nicely the dilemma faced by the Fed's FOMC -- a stable economy that appears to be neither contracting nor remotely in danger of overheating. Arguably a Goldilocks growth rate -- albeit obtained via unprecedented and sustained monetary stimulus that by all rights should have stimulated far more.

Given the domestic economic situation outlined above, we understand the Fed's hesitancy to raise rates. And we understand the delicacy of the global economic environment, which clearly has the economists at the Fed concerned. We also understand the Fed's pride when acting the part of senior member at the central banks club. We simply wonder why the Fed now believes that helping sustain the global economy is part and parcel of their charter and/or congressional mandate.
 
     
     
  February 26, 2016 - BEA Revises 4th Quarter 2015 GDP Growth Upward to 1.00%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2015, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was growing at a +1.00% annualized rate, up +0.31% from their first estimate for the fourth quarter, but still down -0.99% (nearly half) from the third quarter.

All of the net improvement can be attributed to one line item, inventories -- which were up the same +0.31% as the headline aggregate -- while the sum of the changes in the other line items netted out to zero.

Economic growth provided by consumer spending was revised downward still further, with the contribution to the headline growth from spending on consumer goods dropping -0.11%. Fixed investment growth (already essentially nil) dropped another -0.01% to +0.02%. Governmental spending entered mild contraction, removing -0.01% from the headline. Exports weakened yet again, clipping -0.34% from the headline.

In fact, other than inventories, the only good news was that (using the BEA's logic and arithmetic) lower spending on imports contributed +0.09% to the headline growth number. Although most of this lower spending came from falling commodity prices, some also came from weaker demand.

As we have mentioned a number of times before, the BEA's treatment of inventories can introduce noise and seriously distort the headline number over short terms -- which the BEA admits by also publishing a secondary headline that excludes the impact of inventories. Because the upward inventory blip equaled the entire improvement in the headline number, the BEA "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product") was unchanged in this revision -- and was still less than half of what was reported for the prior quarter.

Annualized household disposable income was revised downward in this report. Real annualized per capita disposable income was reported to be $38,320 per annum, down $125 from the previous estimate -- although up $155 from a downward revised prior quarter. The household savings rate dropped to 5.1% -- down -0.3% from the previous estimate but up +0.1% from the revised prior quarter.

For this revision the BEA assumed an annualized deflator of 0.96%. During the same quarter (October 2015 through December 2015) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was revised to a very similar 0.93%. Slightly over estimating inflation results in slightly pessimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would be a marginally better +1.03%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was cut to +0.42% (down -0.11% from the earlier estimate and -0.66% -- more than halved -- from the previous quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer services improved slightly to +0.96% (up +0.03% from the previous report and flat relative to the third quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.38%, down -0.46% (about one-fourth) from 3Q-2015.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was a negligible +0.02%, down -0.58% from the prior quarter.

-- Although the contribution from inventories remained negative -- subtracting -0.14% from the headline number -- this was an improvement of +0.31% from the previous estimate. This was also an improvement of +0.57% from the -0.71% recorded in 3Q-2015. Since this one line item contributes the entire headline gain, it bears repeating that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy, subject to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price swings and represent a zero reverting (and long term zero sum) series.

-- Governmental spending slipped into a slight contraction, removing -0.01% from the headline (down -0.13% from the first estimate and -0.33% from the prior quarter). The reported contraction came exclusively from state and local spending on infrastructure.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports remained in contraction at -0.34% (down -0.03% from the previous estimate and down -0.43% from the prior quarter). This contraction is likely to continue until either the dollar or global economic growth reverse direction.

-- As the dollar strengthened and commodity prices weakened, imports actually generated +0.09% growth in the BEA's model of the economy, up some +0.25% from the previous report and up +0.44% from the prior quarter. This is not exclusively about dollar growth and global oil gluts -- weakening domestic demand is also contributing to this "improvement."

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" is unchanged from the previous estimate, reported to be growing at a +1.14% annualized rate, down substantially (more than halved) from the +2.70% in the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory contraction.

-- Also as mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was revised downward by $125 in this report, while the household savings rate declined in concert with the softening incomes. It is important to keep this line item in perspective. Real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +4.48% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.59% growth rate over the past 30 quarters. Meanwhile, according to Sentier Research, median incomes during the same time span have contracted by roughly 4%.




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) $18.1 = $12.4 + $3.0 + $3.2 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.5% + 16.7% + 17.7% + -2.9%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.00% = 1.38% + -0.12% + -0.01% + -0.25%


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-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013 4Q-2012 3Q-2012 2Q-2012 1Q-2012
Total GDP Growth 1.00% 1.99% 3.92% 0.64% 2.07% 4.27% 4.56% -0.91% 3.82% 2.98% 1.11% 1.91% 0.10% 0.50% 1.89% 2.67%
Consumer Goods 0.42% 1.08% 1.20% 0.25% 0.91% 0.91% 1.49% 0.25% 0.70% 0.60% 0.28% 1.39% 0.53% 0.63% 0.26% 1.11%
Consumer Services 0.96% 0.96% 1.23% 0.94% 1.95% 1.42% 1.11% 0.61% 1.66% 0.57% 0.68% 0.36% 0.25% 0.10% 0.20% 0.52%
Fixed Investment 0.02% 0.60% 0.83% 0.52% 0.39% 1.23% 0.87% 0.91% 0.79% 0.59% 0.40% 0.77% 1.03% 0.00% 0.98% 2.00%
Inventories -0.14% -0.71% 0.02% 0.87% -0.03% -0.01% 1.12% -1.29% -0.08% 1.48% 0.38% 0.28% -1.54% -0.18% 0.56% -0.53%
Government -0.01% 0.32% 0.46% -0.01% -0.26% 0.33% 0.21% 0.00% -0.51% -0.42% -0.38% -0.88% -0.75% -0.22% -0.39% -0.40%
Exports -0.34% 0.09% 0.64% -0.81% 0.71% 0.24% 1.28% -0.95% 1.42% 0.55% 0.64% 0.12% -0.07% 0.27% 0.61% 0.37%
Imports 0.09% -0.35% -0.46% -1.12% -1.60% 0.15% -1.52% -0.44% -0.16% -0.39% -0.89% -0.13% 0.65% -0.10% -0.33% -0.40%
Real Final Sales 1.14% 2.70% 3.90% -0.23% 2.10% 4.28% 3.44% 0.38% 3.90% 1.50% 0.73% 1.63% 1.64% 0.68% 1.33% 3.20%





Summary and Commentary

This report is mostly statistical noise, although some enduring patterns can be seen :

-- The reported growth came largely from inventories and imports, both of which can be held hostage by rapidly changing commodity prices. The reported changes are greatly amplified by significant monetary revaluations to mostly smaller changes in the physical levels of trade and inventories.

-- Consumer demand for goods was revised downward, as was fixed investment -- by states, local governments and commercial investors. Any lingering growth in the consumer, commercial and governmental demand for real/physical goods is softening.

-- Exports fell even further into contraction.

-- Any residual growth in consumer spending for services is not discretionary -- it is primarily a consequence of inexorably rising health care costs.

-- Mean household real disposable incomes are not growing significantly -- and median household real incomes are still down 4% relative to 2008.

-- On the flip side of household ledgers, monies that are no longer being spent at the gasoline pump are mostly being saved. The savings rate is an indication that households are not particularly confident when looking forward. And -- given stagnant incomes, international headlines and domestic political "fear, uncertainty and doubt" (FUD) -- that confidence is not likely to improve over the next several quarters.

Even at face value, a 1% growth rate is fundamentally anemic. And looking deeper into the numbers, most of that 1% comes from the economic fog created by highly volatile commodity prices. So, despite an upward blip in the headline number, we see no particular reason to be cheering this report.
 
     
     
  January 29, 2016 - BEA Estimates 4th Quarter 2015 GDP Growth at 0.69%:

In their first "Preliminary" estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2015, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was growing at a +0.69% annualized rate, down -1.30% from the third quarter.

All of the key line items in this report showed meaningful deterioration relative to the third quarter. The reported growth in consumer spending was less than half of that recorded during the prior quarter. The growth in fixed investments nearly disappeared, as did growth in governmental spending. Exports continued to crater, showing outright contraction.

In fact, the only good news was that the ongoing inventory contraction weakened, while imports were less of a drag on the rest of the economy (the result of both lower oil prices and generally weakening demand). As we have mentioned a number of times before, the BEA's treatment of inventories can introduce noise and seriously distort the headline number over short terms -- which the BEA admits by also publishing a secondary headline that excludes the impact of inventories. But even this BEA "bottom line" (their "Real Final Sales of Domestic Product") was less than half of what was reported for the prior quarter.

One bright spot was that household income was reported to have grown during the quarter. Real annualized per capita disposable income was reported to be $38,445 per annum, up $197 from the previous quarter. The household savings rate rose to 5.4% -- up +0.2% from the prior quarter.

For this revision the BEA assumed an annualized deflator of 0.82%. During the same quarter (October 2015 through December 2015) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was somewhat lower at 0.47%. 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 be a somewhat better +1.04%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods was cut in half to +0.53% (down -0.55% from the previous quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer services weakened slightly to +0.93% (down -0.03% from the from the third quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.46%, down -0.58% from 3Q-2015.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments was a negligible +0.03%, down -0.57% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution from inventories remained negative -- subtracting -0.45% from the headline number. This, however, is an improvement of +0.26% from the -0.71% recorded in 3Q-2015.

-- Governmental spending added only +0.12% to the headline, a contribution that was more than halved from the 0.32% recorded during the previous quarter. The reported growth was exclusively in Federal spending.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports swung into contraction at -0.31%, significantly less than the essentially neutral reading (+0.09%) in the prior quarter. This contraction is likely to continue until either the dollar or global economic growth reverse direction.

-- Imports subtracted somewhat less from the headline number (-0.16%) than during the previous quarter. Again we can credit dollar growth, oil gluts and weakening domestic demand for this improvement.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" is now reported to be growing at a +1.14% annualized rate, down substantially (more than halved) from the +2.70% in the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory contraction.

-- Also as mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was reported to have grown by $197 during the quarter, and the household savings rate also rose. However, it remains important to keep this improvement in perspective. Real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +4.82% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.63% growth rate over the past 30 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) $18.1 = $12.4 + $3.0 + $3.2 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.6% + 16.7% + 17.7% + -2.9%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 0.69% = 1.46% + -0.42% + 0.12% + -0.47%


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-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013 4Q-2012 3Q-2012 2Q-2012 1Q-2012
Total GDP Growth 0.69% 1.99% 3.92% 0.64% 2.07% 4.27% 4.56% -0.91% 3.82% 2.98% 1.11% 1.91% 0.10% 0.50% 1.89% 2.67%
Consumer Goods 0.53% 1.08% 1.20% 0.25% 0.91% 0.91% 1.49% 0.25% 0.70% 0.60% 0.28% 1.39% 0.53% 0.63% 0.26% 1.11%
Consumer Services 0.93% 0.96% 1.23% 0.94% 1.95% 1.42% 1.11% 0.61% 1.66% 0.57% 0.68% 0.36% 0.25% 0.10% 0.20% 0.52%
Fixed Investment 0.03% 0.60% 0.83% 0.52% 0.39% 1.23% 0.87% 0.91% 0.79% 0.59% 0.40% 0.77% 1.03% 0.00% 0.98% 2.00%
Inventories -0.45% -0.71% 0.02% 0.87% -0.03% -0.01% 1.12% -1.29% -0.08% 1.48% 0.38% 0.28% -1.54% -0.18% 0.56% -0.53%
Government 0.12% 0.32% 0.46% -0.01% -0.26% 0.33% 0.21% 0.00% -0.51% -0.42% -0.38% -0.88% -0.75% -0.22% -0.39% -0.40%
Exports -0.31% 0.09% 0.64% -0.81% 0.71% 0.24% 1.28% -0.95% 1.42% 0.55% 0.64% 0.12% -0.07% 0.27% 0.61% 0.37%
Imports -0.16% -0.35% -0.46% -1.12% -1.60% 0.15% -1.52% -0.44% -0.16% -0.39% -0.89% -0.13% 0.65% -0.10% -0.33% -0.40%
Real Final Sales 1.14% 2.70% 3.90% -0.23% 2.10% 4.28% 3.44% 0.38% 3.90% 1.50% 0.73% 1.63% 1.64% 0.68% 1.33% 3.20%





Summary and Commentary

This report should be a wake-up call for anyone thinking that the "recovery" is steaming forward in utter isolation from the global slowdown :

-- The recorded growth dropped by nearly two-thirds, critically led by much weaker growth in consumer demand for goods and commercial fixed investments.

-- Exports fell into significant contraction.

-- The sustained growth in consumer spending for services is not discretionary -- it is primarily a consequence of rising Obamacare health care costs.

-- The quarter-to-quarter increase in the household savings rate (to 5.4%) goes a long ways towards explaining the ongoing weak retail sales. Household monies that are no longer being spent at the gasoline pump are simply being saved. This implies that households are not particularly confident when looking forward -- given international headlines and domestic political "fear, uncertainty and doubt" (FUD).

-- Finally, the numbers above show materially weaker economic growth within the US, after several prior lackluster quarters. There is a downward trend in the numbers which, absent an economic miracle, points to economic contraction in the near future.

We should again note that the BEA is famously incapable of accurately monitoring a dynamically weakening economy in "real time." They may eventually get it right, but only several years after the fact. For example, consider the BEA's constantly changing numbers for the first quarter of 2008 -- from a very similar +0.6% growth shown in the April 30th, 2008 "real time" preliminary report (which, incidentally, reportedly grew to +1.0% over the next two months -- and astonishingly remained at that level through the first of the annual July revisions in 2008) to an admittedly disastrous -2.7% contraction after further consideration and massive subsequent revisions (some 64 months later) :

BEA's Official and Changing View of First Quarter 2008 GDP

Reported Growth Rate Report Date Months Lag
+0.6% April 30, 2008 1
+1.0% June 26, 2008 3
-0.7% July 31, 2009 16
-1.8% July 29, 2011 40
-2.7% July 31, 2013 64




We are not suggesting that the fourth quarter of 2015 was as bad as the first quarter of 2008. We are merely pointing out that the economy was likely in a dynamic transition towards lower (and potentially negative) growth -- and that we may not know exactly what the actual 4Q-2015 growth rate was for some time to come.
 
     


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Economic Policy Journal (06/29/2010)
 
Pragmatic Capitalism (06/29/2010)
 
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Bob English at EconomicPolicyJournal.com (06/10/2010)
 
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markettalk.newswires-americas.com (06/06/2010)
 
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vimeo.com (05/18/2010)
 
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the evil speculator (04/28/2010)
 
Safehaven.com (04/28/2010)
 
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Wall Street Cheat Sheet (04/15/2010)
 
ZeroHedge (03/31/2010)
 
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Contrarian Investors' Journal (03/30/2010)
 
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America's Economic Future (03/15/2010)
 
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Phil's Stock World (01/02/2010)
 
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