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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:10/201311/201312/201301/201402/201403/201404/201405/201406/201407/2014
Value:99.0398.3495.7394.5093.9093.3194.2093.8793.4995.78


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


     
  July 30, 2014 - BEA Reports 2nd Quarter 2014 GDP Growing at 3.94% Annual Rate:

In their first estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2014, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was growing at a +3.94% annualized rate. When compared to the prior quarter, the new measurement is up over 6% from a -2.11% contraction rate for the 1st quarter of 2014 (which was itself revised upward +0.83% from a previously reported -2.94% contraction). This is the largest positive quarter to quarter improvement in GDP growth in some 14 years.

The largest contributions to the 2nd quarter 2014 +6% turnaround in the headline number were from inventories (+2.8%), exports (+2.5), consumer goods expenditures (+1.2%) and commercial fixed investments (+0.9%). Offsetting those positive quarter-to-quarter contribution changes were deteriorating imports (which weakened by -1.5%) and consumer expenditures for services (down -0.3% quarter-to-quarter).

Real annualized per-capita disposable income was reported to be $37,449 -- up some $284 from the prior quarter (a 3.1% annualized growth rate) but still down $420 from the 4th quarter of 2012. A significant portion of that increased disposable income went into savings, with the savings rate growing to 5.3% -- the highest savings level since 4Q-2012.

For this report the BEA effectively assumed annualized quarterly inflation of 2.00%. During the second quarter (i.e., from April through June) the growth rate of the seasonally adjusted CPI-U index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was over one and a half percent higher at a 3.53% (annualized) rate, and the price index reported by the Billion Prices Project (BPP -- which arguably reflected the real experiences of American households) was three quarters of a percent higher at 2.72%. Under reported inflation will result in overly optimistic growth data, and if the BEA's numbers were corrected for inflation using the BLS CPI-U the economy would be reported to be growing at a 2.49% annualized rate. If we were to use the BPP data to adjust for inflation, the first quarter's growth rate would have been 3.30%.

Separately, the BEA released its annual revision to historical data (dating back to 1999). Average quarterly annualized growth in both 2011 and 2012 was reported to have been somewhat lower than previously reported (by about a third of a percent each year), while average quarterly annualized growth in 2013 was revised upward (by about a half percent).

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The contribution of consumer expenditures for goods to the headline number was 1.38% (up a substantial 1.15% from the 0.23% contribution now reported for the prior quarter).

-- The contribution made by consumer services spending dropped to 0.31% (down -0.29% from the 0.60% reported for the prior quarter).

-- Commercial private fixed investments provided 0.91% of the headline number (after adding only 0.03% during the prior quarter).

-- The prior quarter's contraction in inventories reversed -- adding 1.66% to the headline growth rate after subtracting -1.16% during the prior quarter.

-- Governmental spending grew, adding 0.30% to the headline after removing -0.15% in the prior quarter. All of that growth was at the state and local levels.

-- Exports are now reported to be adding 1.23% to the headline growth rate after subtracting -1.30% during the first quarter.

-- Imports subtracted -1.85% from the headline number after removing only -0.36% during the prior quarter.

-- The annualized growth rate for the "real final sales of domestic product" is reported to be 2.28% (after contracting at a revised -0.95% in the prior quarter). This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy, and it is lower than the headline number because of the growing inventories.

-- And as mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income grew by $284 during the quarter (a 3.09% annualized rate). But real disposable income is still down a material -$420 per year from the fourth quarter of 2012 (before the FICA rates normalized) and it is up only about 2% in total since the second quarter of 2008 -- some 6 years ago.




The Numbers, With All Past Data 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) $17.3 = $11.9 + $2.8 + $3.2 + $-0.6
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.6% + 16.4% + 18.3% + -3.3%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.94% = 1.69% + 2.57% + 0.30% + -0.62%


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-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013 4Q-2012 3Q-2012 2Q-2012 1Q-2012 4Q-2011 3Q-2011 2Q-2011 1Q-2011
Total GDP Growth 3.94% -2.11% 3.50% 4.51% 1.77% 2.75% 0.06% 2.48% 1.62% 2.25% 4.59% 0.84% 2.94% -1.53%
Consumer Goods 1.38% 0.23% 0.83% 0.80% 0.30% 1.35% 0.67% 0.74% 0.29% 1.06% 0.90% 0.20% -0.18% 0.66%
Consumer Services 0.31% 0.60% 1.69% 0.59% 0.93% 1.11% 0.65% 0.58% 0.57% 0.81% 0.04% 1.00% 0.75% 0.72%
Fixed Investment 0.91% 0.03% 0.95% 1.01% 0.74% 0.42% 0.96% 0.45% 0.61% 1.24% 1.36% 2.25% 1.10% -0.11%
Inventories 1.66% -1.16% -0.34% 1.49% 0.30% 0.70% -1.80% -0.19% 0.27% -0.20% 2.80% -2.10% 1.04% -0.96%
Government 0.30% -0.15% -0.71% 0.04% 0.04% -0.75% -1.20% 0.52% -0.08% -0.56% -0.31% -0.52% -0.08% -1.60%
Exports 1.23% -1.30% 1.30% 0.67% 0.82% -0.12% 0.19% 0.28% 0.64% 0.19% 0.56% 0.57% 0.82% 0.27%
Imports -1.85% -0.36% -0.22% -0.09% -1.36% 0.04% 0.59% 0.10% -0.68% -0.29% -0.76% -0.56% -0.51% -0.51%
Real Final Sales 2.28% -0.95% 3.84% 3.02% 1.47% 2.05% 1.86% 2.67% 1.35% 2.45% 1.79% 2.94% 1.90% -0.57%





Summary and Commentary

At first glance this report shows an astonishing turnaround in the economy. It generally exceeded expectations and fully delivered on Ms. Yellen's promise that "... Economic activity is rebounding ... and will continue to expand at a moderate pace thereafter." Apparently, after all, it really was just "bad weather."

And the key measure of "real" per capita disposable income actually shows signs of measurable growth, managing a 3% annualized growth rate.

Plus the dreaded "annual revisions" were far less dramatic than we had come to expect. Although nearly all of the historic numbers changed, it was basically a zero net exercise -- with weaker data for 2011 and 2012 mostly offset by stronger data for 2013.

But before we run out to celebrate, let's look a few items that might argue for some caution :

-- An increased household savings rate absorbed about half of the improved disposable income. And less than 1% of the 6% turnaround in the headline rate was the result of greater consumer spending. Households are still reluctant to spend freely.

-- We have mentioned many times before that inventories are, over time, a zero-sum game. They are also highly volatile -- because of both business cycle factors and the BEA's inventory measurement and valuation methodologies. For that reason the BEA itself removes inventories from what it considers its "bottom line" -- the "real final sales of domestic product." By that measure the economy was growing at a much more modest 2.28% (even using really favorable assumptions about inflation).

-- The volatility in the BEA's numbers is eroding trust : the official measurement of economic growth for the first quarter went from +0.11% to -0.99% to -2.94% over a span of just 56 days. Those reports contained material differences that called for drastically different economic plans and/or corporate responses. At best any of the BEA's initial data lacks credibility. At worst it is a lame guesstimate that targets consensus expectations -- making it arguably the least accurate and least timely among Western developed countries.

-- On "Main Street" the economy is most likely not growing at 4%, unemployment is certainly not roughly 6% by any realistic measure and the reported increase in average household incomes was likely skewed by the upper end. Median households understand all of this -- hence the increased savings.

-- But if Ms. Yellen is either particularly gullible or desperately looking for a rationale to begin "normalizing" monetary policy, this report provides a far better read that what we saw just last month. An economy officially growing at 4% with roughly 6% unemployment would argue strongly for an end to QE and a return to historicly prevalent interest rates.

Unfortunately, this is yet another initial BEA report. We would recommend keeping the champagne on ice for at least the next 60 days.
 
     
     
  June 25, 2014 - BEA Reports 1st Quarter 2014 GDP Plunging at a Nearly -3% Annual Rate:

In their third estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2014, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was contracting at a -2.94% annualized rate. When compared to prior quarters, the new measurement is down nearly 5.6% from the 2.64% growth rate reported for the 4th quarter of 2013, and it is now more than 7% lower than the 4.19% reported for the 3rd quarter of 2013 -- and it is by far the worse quarter since 2009.

The largest revisions to the headline number were from consumer services (revised downward by -1.26%) and exports (down -0.42%). Unfortunately, nearly everything was revised downward : consumer spending on goods (-0.12%), inventories (-0.08% more) and imports (down an additional -0.17%). Only governmental spending and fixed investments escaped yet further downward revisions -- although both of those categories remain mired deeply in the red.

The previously reported quarterly growth in real annualized per-capita disposable income was revised downward yet again to $78 (and that disposable income figure is now $244 per year lower than it was during the fourth quarter of 2012).

And lastly, for this report the BEA assumed annualized net aggregate inflation of 1.27%. During the first quarter (i.e., from January through March) the growth rate of the seasonally adjusted CPI-U index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was over a half percent higher at a 1.80% (annualized) rate, and the price index reported by the Billion Prices Project (BPP -- which arguably reflected the real experiences of American households while recording sharply increasing consumer prices during the first quarter) was over two and a half percent higher at 3.91%. Under reported inflation will result in overly optimistic growth data, and if the BEA's numbers were corrected for inflation using the BLS CPI-U the economy would be reported to be contracting at a -3.51% annualized rate. If we were to use the BPP data to adjust for inflation, the first quarter's contraction rate would have been an horrific -5.62%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The contribution of consumer expenditures for goods to the headline number dropped to a stagnant 0.04% (down a substantial -0.62% from the 0.66% contribution in the prior quarter).

-- The contribution made by consumer services spending plunged to 0.67% (down -0.90% from the 1.57% in the prior quarter). This revision totally reversed the BEA's previous measurement of a sharp increase in non-discretionary healthcare expenses -- and as such it presents a somewhat murkier (and less negative) picture of the ongoing real economic impact of ObamaCare.

-- The previously reported contraction in commercial private fixed investments was confirmed, reducing the headline number by -0.27% (after adding 0.43% during the prior quarter). The contraction was led by reduced outlays for IT equipment, transportation equipment and residential construction.

-- The contraction in inventories was somewhat worse than previously reported -- subtracting -1.70% from the headline growth rate (down -1.68% from the prior quarter).

-- Contracting governmental spending was essentially unchanged, removing an aggregate -0.14% from the headline number.

-- Exports are now reported to be subtracting -1.25% from the headline number (a change of -2.48% from the fourth quarter).

-- Imports subtracted -0.29% from the headline number (roughly the same as the -0.24% in the prior quarter).

-- The annualized growth rate for the "real final sales of domestic product" dropped into contraction: -1.24% (now down 3.9% from the 2.66% in the prior quarter). This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy, and this is the first time it has contracted since the first quarter of 2011.

-- And as mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income grew by $78 during the quarter (a 0.85% annualized rate). But that number is down a material -$244 per year from the fourth quarter of 2012 (before the FICA rates normalized) and it is up only about 1% in total ($342 per year) since the second quarter of 2008 -- some 23 quarters ago.




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) $17.0 = $11.7 + $2.7 + $3.1 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.9% + 15.8% + 18.3% + -3.1%
Contribution to GDP Growth % -2.94% = 0.71% + -1.97% + -0.14% + -1.54%


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-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013 4Q-2012 3Q-2012 2Q-2012 1Q-2012 4Q-2011 3Q-2011 2Q-2011 1Q-2011
Total GDP Growth -2.94% 2.64% 4.12% 2.48% 1.14% 0.14% 2.78% 1.20% 3.71% 4.86% 1.37% 3.19% -1.29%
Consumer Goods 0.04% 0.66% 1.03% 0.71% 0.85% 0.85% 0.84% 0.50% 1.04% 1.14% 0.29% 0.05% 0.60%
Consumer Services 0.67% 1.57% 0.32% 0.53% 0.69% 0.29% 0.31% 0.78% 0.94% 0.51% 1.14% 0.98% 0.81%
Fixed Investment -0.27% 0.43% 0.89% 0.96% -0.23% 1.63% 0.39% 0.68% 1.21% 1.39% 1.96% 1.16% -0.05%
Inventories -1.70% -0.02% 1.67% 0.41% 0.93% -2.00% 0.60% -0.91% 0.36% 2.73% -1.60% 0.72% -1.06%
Government -0.14% -0.99% 0.08% -0.07% -0.82% -1.31% 0.67% 0.05% -0.28% -0.31% -0.52% -0.25% -1.61%
Exports -1.25% 1.23% 0.52% 1.04% -0.18% 0.15% 0.05% 0.51% 0.56% 0.38% 0.92% 0.64% 0.48%
Imports -0.29% -0.24% -0.39% -1.10% -0.10% 0.53% -0.08% -0.41% -0.12% -0.98% -0.82% -0.11% -0.46%
Real Final Sales -1.24% 2.66% 2.45% 2.07% 0.21% 2.14% 2.18% 2.11% 3.35% 2.13% 2.97% 2.47% -0.23%





Summary and Commentary

Let's take a look at both the good news and the bad news in this report :

The Good News

-- The BEA totally reversed itself on the household savings rate, which is now reported to have increased (slightly) during the quarter (to 4.4% from 4.3% in 4Q-2013) after two previous estimates of declining savings. This improved savings rate is consistent with the downward revision in consumer spending, and it will be used by the "bad weather" apologists as confirmation that the plunging economic activity was due to a particularly harsh winter -- with the increasing savings yet another sign of the "pent-up demand" that is even now quickly reversing a one-off quarterly blip.

As Ms. Yellen explained to us only last week : "Although real GDP declined in the first quarter, this decline appears to have resulted mainly from transitory factors ... Economic activity is rebounding in the current quarter and will continue to expand at a moderate pace thereafter ... "

-- Ms. Yellen went on to say : "Private domestic final demand -- that is, spending by domestic households and businesses -- continued to expand in the first quarter ..."

While that was technically correct, it was arguably a case of semantics and cherry-picking positive lines from the economic reports. Her preferred measurement conveniently omitted inventories, government expenditures, exports and imports -- all of which were negative. By doing so she calculated a new "private domestic final demand" benchmark that is growing -- albeit at an anemic 0.44%. Meanwhile the BEA's "bottom line" real final sales of domestic product was contracting at a -1.24% annual rate during the first quarter of 2014.

The Bad News

Nearly everything else :

-- We might hope that the "bad weather" theorists will note that the sharp downward revision to consumer services spending occurred almost exclusively in non-discretionary healthcare expenditures, which is difficult to blame on a harsh winter -- especially since discretionary recreational spending during that same storm plagued time span was actually revised upward and remained essentially neutral.

-- The slightly improved 4.4% household savings rate is still a half percent lower than the 4.9% savings rate measured during the 3rd quarter of 2013, let alone the 6.6% rate achieved during the 4th quarter of 2012.

-- The "bad weather" spin-meisters need to explain how a harsh winter caused exports to plunge -- resulting in a roughly -2.5% change in the headline number relative to the prior quarter. Export growth had been one of the bright spots of 2013 -- even as the economies of many of our trading partners softened. That source of growth has ended, bad weather or not.

-- Consumer spending is contributing roughly 1.5% less to the headline annualized growth number than during 4Q-2013.

-- The growth contribution from fixed commercial investment is down .7% from 4Q-2013, and down roughly 1.2% from 3Q-2013.

-- Governmental spending continues to contract.

-- Inventories continue to contract.

-- Per-capita real disposable income is increasing at a miserable 0.85% annual rate. Note that those per-capita numbers report the mean, and are pushed up by gains among the super wealthy. Surveys of median household disposable income are actually showing continued contraction.

-- The numbers are likely boosted by low "deflators" and are almost certainly more positive than households are actually experiencing. Using a "deflator" that is closer to real household experiences (e.g., the Billion Prices Project) results in a horrific contraction rate of -5.62%.

-- Looking at the past three quarters for trend lines, we see growth rates of +4.12% (3Q-2013), +2.64% (4Q-2013) and now -2.94% (1Q-2014). The trend line is not only down, it is clearly getting worse.

Yet Ms. Yellen tells us not to worry : "Economic activity is rebounding in the current quarter." We certainly hope so, with "pent-up demand" quickly reversing a one-off blip of a quarter that is frighteningly reminiscent of 2008-2009.

But Ms. Yellen's assurances are interesting for yet another reason. In roughly a month we will know if she is remotely correct. If she is not, we will have to choose whether she is guilty of merely spinning happy bubble talk or is basing Fed policy on badly misinformed or untimely economic data. Frankly, we would much prefer the former.
 
     
     
  May 29, 2014 - BEA Revises 1st Quarter 2014 GDP Sharply Downward to Outright Contraction at Nearly a 1% Annual Rate:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2014, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was contracting at a -0.99% annualized rate. When compared to prior quarters, the new measurement is down over 3.6% from the 2.64% growth rate reported for the 4th quarter of 2013, and it is now more than 5% lower than the 4.19% reported for the 3rd quarter of 2013.

The largest revisions to the headline number were from inventories (revised downward by -1.05%) and imports (down -0.36%), and although exports improved somewhat from the prior report, they still subtracted -0.83% from the headline. Fixed investments in both equipment and residential construction continued to contract. The contraction rate for government spending also deepened slightly, with the downward revisions primarily in state and local governmental infrastructure investment.

Consumer spending was not revised significantly in this report, although the reported household savings rates dropped once again.

The previously reported quarterly growth in real annualized per-capita disposable income was revised downward to $95 (and that disposable income figure is now $227 per year lower than it was during the fourth quarter of 2012), while the household savings rate shrank again to 4.0% (down -0.9% from the 4.9% in the prior quarter and down -2.6% from the fourth quarter of 2012).

And lastly, for this report the BEA assumed annualized net aggregate inflation of 1.28%. During the first quarter (i.e., from January through March) the growth rate of the seasonally adjusted CPI-U index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was over a half percent higher at a 1.80% (annualized) rate, and the price index reported by the Billion Prices Project (BPP -- which arguably reflected the real experiences of American households while recording sharply increasing consumer prices during the first quarter) was over two and a half percent higher at 3.91%. Under reported inflation will result in overly optimistic growth data, and if the BEA's numbers were corrected for inflation using the BLS CPI-U the economy would be reported to be contracting at a -1.52% annualized rate. If we were to use the BPP data to adjust for inflation, the first quarter's contraction rate would have been a staggering -3.64%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The contribution of consumer expenditures for goods to the headline number actually increased to 0.16% (still down a substantial -0.50% from the 0.66% contribution in the prior quarter).

-- The contribution made by consumer services spending remained essentially the same at 1.93% (up 0.36% from the 1.57% in the prior quarter). As mentioned last month, the increased spending was primarily for non-discretionary healthcare, housing, utilities and financial services -- i.e., increased expenses that stress households without providing any perceived improvement to their quality of life.

-- Commercial private fixed investments contracted, reducing the headline number by -0.36% (after adding 0.43% during the prior quarter). The contraction was led by reduced outlays for IT equipment, transportation equipment and residential construction.

-- Inventories are now reported to be contracting substantially more sharply -- subtracting -1.62% from the headline growth rate (down -1.60% from the prior quarter).

-- Reduced governmental spending removed an aggregate -0.15% from the headline number. The Federal government "shutdown" is now in the prior reporting quarter (i.e., 4Q-2013), and a modest bounce-back in Federal non-defense spending added 0.2% to headline number that was more than offset by contracting defense spending and shrinking state and local infrastructure investments.

-- Exports subtracted -0.83% from the headline number (a change of -2.06% from the fourth quarter). Export growth had been one of the bright spots of 2013 -- even as the economies of many of our trading partners softened. That source of growth has ended.

-- Imports subtracted -0.12% from the headline number (after adding 0.24% in the prior estimate).

-- The annualized growth rate for the "real final sales of domestic product" dropped slightly to 0.63% (still down over 2% from the 2.66% in the prior quarter). This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy -- and it remains substantially stronger than the headline number because of the sharp contraction in inventories.

-- And as mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income grew by $95 during the quarter (a 1.03% annualized rate). But that number is down a material -$227 per year from the fourth quarter of 2012 (before the FICA rates normalized) and it is up only about 1% in total ($359 per year) since the second quarter of 2008 -- some 23 quarters ago.




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) $17.1 = $11.8 + $2.7 + $3.1 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 69.0% + 15.8% + 18.2% + -2.9%
Contribution to GDP Growth % -0.99% = 2.09% + -1.98% + -0.15% + -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-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013 4Q-2012 3Q-2012 2Q-2012 1Q-2012 4Q-2011 3Q-2011 2Q-2011 1Q-2011
Total GDP Growth -0.99% 2.64% 4.12% 2.48% 1.14% 0.14% 2.78% 1.20% 3.71% 4.86% 1.37% 3.19% -1.29%
Consumer Goods 0.16% 0.66% 1.03% 0.71% 0.85% 0.85% 0.84% 0.50% 1.04% 1.14% 0.29% 0.05% 0.60%
Consumer Services 1.93% 1.57% 0.32% 0.53% 0.69% 0.29% 0.31% 0.78% 0.94% 0.51% 1.14% 0.98% 0.81%
Fixed Investment -0.36% 0.43% 0.89% 0.96% -0.23% 1.63% 0.39% 0.68% 1.21% 1.39% 1.96% 1.16% -0.05%
Inventories -1.62% -0.02% 1.67% 0.41% 0.93% -2.00% 0.60% -0.91% 0.36% 2.73% -1.60% 0.72% -1.06%
Government -0.15% -0.99% 0.08% -0.07% -0.82% -1.31% 0.67% 0.05% -0.28% -0.31% -0.52% -0.25% -1.61%
Exports -0.83% 1.23% 0.52% 1.04% -0.18% 0.15% 0.05% 0.51% 0.56% 0.38% 0.92% 0.64% 0.48%
Imports -0.12% -0.24% -0.39% -1.10% -0.10% 0.53% -0.08% -0.41% -0.12% -0.98% -0.82% -0.11% -0.46%
Real Final Sales 0.63% 2.66% 2.45% 2.07% 0.21% 2.14% 2.18% 2.11% 3.35% 2.13% 2.97% 2.47% -0.23%





Summary and Commentary

This is a bad report, and the numbers speak for themselves. And looking at the trend lines, things are unlikely to get better anytime soon.

But we also feel compelled to digress from the bad news itself. While other people may be utterly shocked to find that the economy is in contraction, we are much more inclined outrage at the possibility that the BEA published clearly fictitious numbers last month in an effort to "ease" the readings towards the bad news that they knew (or should have known) would follow shortly :

-- If they (the BEA) did not realize last month that the US economy was in contraction during the first quarter of 2014, they are sufficiently incompetent (in practice and procedure) to merit a complete overhaul and/or gutting of the agency.

-- That said, gross incompetence is probably the lesser evil -- simply because if they knew full well last month how bad the news really had become, they simply descended into a Goebbelesque world of publishing what they wanted the world to think.

-- We wonder who the BEA is supposed to serve? The history texts tell us that the BEA's genesis was in the second Roosevelt administration's frustration at the poor performance of "live" economic data during the Great Depression. Maybe we need someone of FDR's ilk to get really pissed at the quality of the "live" data currently emanating from the BEA. For example, recall how the BEA reported the first quarter of 2008 over time :

BEA's 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


-- The BEA is not serving anyone particularly well (except perhaps their political masters) with a track record like the above. In "real-time" they overstated the 1Q-2008 growth rate (during an election year) by a staggering +3.3% (and note that in the run-up to the election they initially revised that overstatement even further up). We are hard pressed to find another developed country (except China) reporting economic data on a less timely, accurate or transparent basis.

-- And, is it remotely possible that the pace of economic growth has changed so dramatically in just two quarters -- contracting by over 5% since the 3rd quarter of 2013? Has anyone sensed so catastrophic a change? Or for that matter, did anyone actually sense 4% economic growth in 3Q-2013? We suspect that we will find out (some time from now) that the third and fourth quarters of 2013 were nowhere near as wonderful as they were originally cast.

When reflecting on the BEA we have certainly offered a hard choice: incompetence or Goebbelesque. Sadly, we may be seeing a fair share of both.
 
     
     
  April 30, 2014 - BEA Estimates 1st Quarter 2014 GDP Growth Collapsed To A Mere 0.11% Annual Rate:

In their first estimate of the US GDP for the first quarter of 2014, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was growing at an anemic 0.11% annualized rate. When compared to prior quarters, the new measurement is down over 2.5% from the 2.64% growth rate reported for the 4th quarter of 2013, and it is now more than 4% lower than the 4.19% reported for the 3rd quarter of 2013 -- indicating that the deceleration in the growth rate first noticed last quarter has both continued and sharply intensified.

Commercial activity was especially hard hit: exports led the collapse, and commercial investments and inventories also weakening significantly. Fixed investments in both equipment and residential construction contracted sharply. Government spending also contracted, primarily in Federal defense spending and state and local governmental infrastructure investment.

Consumer spending for services provided the only significant growth, with outlays for non-discretionary healthcare, housing, utilities and financial services all increasing. Spending on consumer goods was essentially flat even though household savings rates dropped once again.

Real annualized per-capita disposable income grew by $112 during the first quarter (although it is still $204 per year lower than it was during the fourth quarter of 2012), while the household savings rate shrank again to 4.1% (down -0.8% from the 4.9% in the prior quarter and down -2.5% from the fourth quarter of 2012). The reduced savings rate was an budgetary necessity -- given that spending on non-discretionary services (including healthcare) increased substantially faster than disposable income.

And lastly, for this report the BEA assumed annualized net aggregate inflation of 1.30%. During the first quarter (i.e., from January through March) the growth rate of the seasonally adjusted CPI-U index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was a full half percent higher at a 1.80% (annualized) rate, and the price index reported by the Billion Prices Project (BPP -- which arguably reflected the real experiences of American households while recording sharply increasing consumer prices during the first quarter) was over two and a half percent higher at 3.91%. Under reported inflation will result in overly optimistic growth data, and if the BEA's numbers were corrected for inflation using the BLS CPI-U the economy would be reported to be contracting at a -0.38% annualized rate. And if we were to use the BPP data to adjust for inflation the first quarter's contraction rate would have been a staggering -2.50%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The contribution of consumer expenditures for goods to the headline number decreased to an essentially flat 0.08% (down a substantial -0.58% from the 0.66% contribution in the prior quarter).

-- The contribution made by consumer services spending increased sharply to 1.96% (up 0.39% from the 1.57% in the prior quarter). The increased spending was primarily for non-discretionary healthcare, housing, utilities and financial services.

-- Commercial private fixed investments contracted, reducing the headline number by -0.44% (after having adding 0.43% during the prior quarter). The contraction was led by reduced outlays for IT equipment, transportation equipment and residential construction.

-- Inventories are now reported to be contracting sharply -- subtracting -0.57% from the headline growth rate (down -0.55% from the prior quarter). The first three three quarters of 2013 had seen substantial inventory growth that had boosted the reported annualized growth rate by an average of 1%. We might expect a corresponding multi-quarter contraction to "normalize" inventory levels.

-- Reduced governmental spending removed an aggregate -0.09% from the headline number. The Federal government "shutdown" is now in the prior reporting quarter (i.e., 4Q-2013), and a modest bounce-back in Federal non-defense spending added 0.2% to headline number that was more than offset by contracting defense spending and shrinking state and local infrastructure investments.

-- Exports swung dramatically from adding 1.23% to the overall growth rate in 4Q-2013 to subtracting -1.07% from the headline number in the new report (a swing of -2.30%). Export growth had been one of the bright spots of 2013 -- even as the economies of many of our trading partners softened. That source of growth appears to have abruptly ended.

-- Weakening demand for imports actually added 0.24% from the headline number (after subtracting -0.24% in the prior quarter -- representing nearly a full half percent improvement). However, weakening demand for imports is not necessarily a good economic omen.

-- The annualized growth rate for the "real final sales of domestic product" dropped sharply to 0.68% (down nearly 2% from the 2.66% in the prior quarter). This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy -- and it remains stronger than the headline number because of the contraction in inventories.

-- And as mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income grew by $112 during the quarter (a 1.22% annualized rate). But that number is still down a material -$204 per year from the fourth quarter of 2012 (before the FICA rates normalized) and it is up only about 1% in total ($382 per year) since the second quarter of 2008 -- some 23 quarters ago.




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) $17.1 = $11.8 + $2.7 + $3.1 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.8% + 16.0% + 18.2% + -2.9%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 0.11% = 2.04% + -1.01% + -0.09% + -0.83%


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-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013 4Q-2012 3Q-2012 2Q-2012 1Q-2012 4Q-2011 3Q-2011 2Q-2011 1Q-2011
Total GDP Growth 0.11% 2.64% 4.12% 2.48% 1.14% 0.14% 2.78% 1.20% 3.71% 4.86% 1.37% 3.19% -1.29%
Consumer Goods 0.08% 0.66% 1.03% 0.71% 0.85% 0.85% 0.84% 0.50% 1.04% 1.14% 0.29% 0.05% 0.60%
Consumer Services 1.96% 1.57% 0.32% 0.53% 0.69% 0.29% 0.31% 0.78% 0.94% 0.51% 1.14% 0.98% 0.81%
Fixed Investment -0.44% 0.43% 0.89% 0.96% -0.23% 1.63% 0.39% 0.68% 1.21% 1.39% 1.96% 1.16% -0.05%
Inventories -0.57% -0.02% 1.67% 0.41% 0.93% -2.00% 0.60% -0.91% 0.36% 2.73% -1.60% 0.72% -1.06%
Government -0.09% -0.99% 0.08% -0.07% -0.82% -1.31% 0.67% 0.05% -0.28% -0.31% -0.52% -0.25% -1.61%
Exports -1.07% 1.23% 0.52% 1.04% -0.18% 0.15% 0.05% 0.51% 0.56% 0.38% 0.92% 0.64% 0.48%
Imports 0.24% -0.24% -0.39% -1.10% -0.10% 0.53% -0.08% -0.41% -0.12% -0.98% -0.82% -0.11% -0.46%
Real Final Sales 0.68% 2.66% 2.45% 2.07% 0.21% 2.14% 2.18% 2.11% 3.35% 2.13% 2.97% 2.47% -0.23%





Summary and Commentary

There are a number of disturbing items in this report :

-- Even at first glance this is not a good report. Although the headline number itself says "stagnation," in the context of earlier reports it shows an economy in dynamic transition from lackluster growth towards outright contraction. The overall headline number is down 2.5% from the prior quarter and down 4% from the next earlier quarter. These are significant changes, with the prior quarter's trend extended and the downward slope intensifying.

-- Private commercial investment dropped substantially, led by reduced outlays for residential construction, transportation equipment and IT infrastructure.

-- The year-long 2013 cycle of inventory building has come to an end. Over an extended time period inventories are mostly a cyclical zero-sum game, with excessive growth or contraction over any period being corrected (i.e., reversed) during a subsequent period. Moving forward we should expect that inventories will continue their cyclical contraction, with negative consequences to the headline number.

-- Collapsing exports are likely confirming a weakening global economy. If so, exports are unlikely to provide the same kind of growth boost that they have provided during 2013, when they grew at about twice their historic rate.

-- A positive contribution to the headline growth rate from imports is historically an inverse growth indicator, since it is usually a consequence of reduced domestic demand (e.g., positive import contributions were particularly notable during 2008 and early 2009, and again during the overall weak 4Q-2012).

-- The Federal government's "shutdown" subtracted roughly 1% from the fourth quarter's reported growth rate. Since it is likely that some part of the reduced spending was actually only deferred (rather than foregone), we had expected a sharp "bounce-back" in Federal spending in 1Q-2014. While that did occur to some extent in the non-defense portions of the Federal budget, it was offset by ongoing cutbacks in defense spending and shrinking state and local expenditures on infrastructure.

-- Although real household income improved somewhat (at a respectable real 1.22% annualized rate), it is still below levels seen in the fourth quarter of 2012. It bears repeating that total aggregate real per-capita income growth since the second quarter of 2008 has been just 1.04% -- an average annualized growth rate of just 0.19% during the entire "recovery." The household savings rate is down over 2.5% since the fourth quarter of 2012, and it remains well below the historical long term savings rate.

-- The growth in consumer spending was caused by increased household costs for non-discretionary services -- healthcare, housing, utilities and financial services (e.g., rising interest rates). Spending on goods remained essentially flat, with the "growth" in consumer services spending coming once again mostly out of savings -- which is unsustainable over the long haul.

-- Most of the increasing spending on services was channeled/transferred to large-cap corporate America. Discretionary spending at shops on "Main Street" America -- the quickest source of economic growth or new jobs -- is under renewed (and probably unrelenting) pressure.

-- The headline growth rate is likely enhanced by an understatement of inflation. Even using BLS data to "deflate" the nominal data results in a contracting headline number, while using data from the BPP to deflate the data results in an eye-opening -2.5% contraction rate.

Enjoy this (barely) positive headline number while it lasts. Even if it survives the next two months of revisions, the economic momentum signaled by the past two quarters will likely carry the headline number into the red in the very near future.
 
     
     
  March 27, 2014 - BEA Revises 4th Quarter 2013 GDP Growth Up Slightly To A 2.64% Annual Rate:

In their third estimate of the US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the economy was growing at a 2.64% annualized rate, up .27% from the 2.37% growth rate previously reported -- but still down sharply (-1.53%) from the 4.19% reported for the 3rd quarter. The improvement in the headline growth came almost entirely from the BEA's reassessment of consumer spending on services (adding .57% to the headline number, mostly from increased spending on health care). Offsetting that increase were downward adjustments to consumer spending on goods (-.06%), the growth rate for inventories (which lost -.16% and is now reported to be in slight contraction) and fixed investment (-.15%). Only minor adjustments were made to exports and imports. As a consequence of the consumer services revision and the slight inventory contraction the BEA's "bottom line" growth rate for the economy (the "real final sales of domestic product") strengthened by nearly a half percent to a 2.66% annualized growth rate.

Real annualized per-capita disposable income is now reported to have been essentially flat during the fourth quarter (gaining $1 annualized per-capita), and the household savings rate was adjusted back downward to 4.3% (down -.6% from the 4.9% in the prior quarter and down -2.3% year-over-year from the fourth quarter of 2012). That savings rate has been effectively absorbing the January 2013 2% increase in FICA tax rates -- allowing households to sustain spending even as take-home pay took a haircut.

Finally, for this report the BEA assumed annualized net aggregate inflation of 1.56%. During the fourth quarter (i.e., from October through December) the growth rate of the seasonally adjusted CPI-U index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was slightly lower at a 1.46% (annualized) rate, while the price index reported by the Billion Prices Project (BPP -- which arguably best reflects the experiences of the American consumer) was substantially higher at 2.46%. Under reported inflation will result in overly optimistic growth data, and if the BEA's numbers were corrected for inflation using the BPP inflation rate the fourth quarter's growth rate would have only been 1.78%.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The contribution of consumer expenditures for goods to the headline number decreased slightly to 0.66% (down -0.06%, and -0.37% lower than the 1.03% contribution in the prior quarter).

-- The contribution made by consumer services spending increased to 1.57% (up from the 1.00% previously reported). Almost all of this increased spending was in health care.

-- The growth rate contribution from private fixed investments decreased to 0.43% (less than half of the 0.89% reported during the prior quarter).

-- Notably inventories are now reported to be contracting at a marginal pace -- subtracting -0.02% from the headline growth rate (down -1.65% from the prior quarter). The prior three quarters had seen substantial inventory growth that had boosted the reported annualized growth rate by an average of 1%.

-- The Federal government "shutdown" is still in the "current" reporting quarter (i.e., 4Q-2013), and it removed -0.99% from the headline number.

-- Exports contributed 1.23% to the overall growth rate, essentially unchanged (up 0.01%) from the previous report. In context, this is the strongest export growth since the fourth quarter of 2010.

-- Imports subtracted -0.24% from the headline number (unchanged from the previous report).

-- The annualized growth rate for the "real final sales of domestic product" increased to 2.66% (up from the 2.45% in the prior quarter). This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy -- and it is now slightly stronger than the headline number because of the minor contraction in inventories.

-- And as mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income is now reported to have grown by a minuscule amount during the quarter -- increasing a miserable $1 per year. But that number is down a material -$316 per year (roughly 1%) from the fourth quarter of 2012 (before the FICA rates normalized) and it is up less than 1% in total ($270 per year) since the second quarter of 2008 -- some 22 quarters ago.




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) $17.1 = $11.7 + $2.8 + $3.1 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.2% + 16.2% + 18.3% + -2.7%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.64% = 2.23% + 0.41% + -0.99% + 0.99%


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-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013 4Q-2012 3Q-2012 2Q-2012 1Q-2012 4Q-2011 3Q-2011 2Q-2011 1Q-2011 4Q-2010 3Q-2010 2Q-2010 1Q-2010
Total GDP Growth 2.64% 4.12% 2.48% 1.14% 0.14% 2.78% 1.20% 3.71% 4.86% 1.37% 3.19% -1.29% 2.80% 2.78% 3.91% 1.59%
Consumer Goods 0.66% 1.03% 0.71% 0.85% 0.85% 0.84% 0.50% 1.04% 1.14% 0.29% 0.05% 0.60% 1.66% 0.85% 1.14% 0.88%
Consumer Services 1.57% 0.32% 0.53% 0.69% 0.29% 0.31% 0.78% 0.94% 0.51% 1.14% 0.98% 0.81% 1.21% 1.02% 1.07% 0.54%
Fixed Investment 0.43% 0.89% 0.96% -0.23% 1.63% 0.39% 0.68% 1.21% 1.39% 1.96% 1.16% -0.05% 1.13% -0.04% 1.77% 0.11%
Inventories -0.02% 1.67% 0.41% 0.93% -2.00% 0.60% -0.91% 0.36% 2.73% -1.60% 0.72% -1.06% -1.64% 1.90% 1.09% 1.66%
Government -0.99% 0.08% -0.07% -0.82% -1.31% 0.67% 0.05% -0.28% -0.31% -0.52% -0.25% -1.61% -0.87% -0.07% 0.61% -0.63%
Exports 1.23% 0.52% 1.04% -0.18% 0.15% 0.05% 0.51% 0.56% 0.38% 0.92% 0.64% 0.48% 1.47% 1.27% 1.10% 0.73%
Imports -0.24% -0.39% -1.10% -0.10% 0.53% -0.08% -0.41% -0.12% -0.98% -0.82% -0.11% -0.46% -0.15% -2.15% -2.87% -1.70%
Real Final Sales 2.66% 2.45% 2.07% 0.21% 2.14% 2.18% 2.11% 3.35% 2.13% 2.97% 2.47% -0.23% 4.44% 0.88% 2.82% -0.07%





Summary and Commentary

There are a few of notable take-aways from this report, especially when looking ahead to the first quarter of 2014 :

-- The year-long cycle of inventory building has apparently come to an end. Dating back to the first quarter of 2006, the reported average real annualized growth rate of inventories has been a relatively neutral +0.04%. This is not surprising because over an extended time period inventories are mostly a cyclical zero-sum game, with excessive growth or contraction in any one period being corrected during subsequent periods. Moving forward we should expect that inventories will continue their cyclical transition from building to contraction, with negative consequences to the headline number.

-- The Federal government's "shutdown" subtracted roughly 1% from the fourth quarter's reported growth rate. If Federal spending simply reverts to the prior quarter's level, we might expect a roughly 1% boost to the headline number. On the other hand, if the Federal budget experienced a "catch-up" effect from sequestered spending that was merely pushed into the first quarter, we could see yet another quarter's report distorted by the "shutdown" -- this time with the first quarter shoved firmly to the upside.

-- The headline growth contribution from commercial fixed investment dropped over 2% from quarter to quarter, and it was sustained largely by spending on equipment (healthcare and transportation) -- with spending on structures actually contracting slightly. Residential housing construction flipped to significant contraction after 12 consecutive quarters of growth.

-- Although the growth contribution from imports is at about the long term average, exports are currently growing at about twice their longer term average. Sustained long term growth in exports requires healthy and growing trading partners. Given softening growth in a number of our trading partners, this historically high growth rate for exports may not be sustainable.

-- Household income shows no signs of recovery. Real per-capita income remains stagnant quarter to quarter, and down substantially year over year. It bears repeating that total real per-capita income growth since the second quarter of 2008 has been 0.73% -- an average annualized growth rate of just 0.13% during the entire "recovery." The household savings rate is down over 2.3% year over year, and it remains well below the historical long term savings rate.

-- Ominously, the just reported upside revision to "growth" in consumer spending was caused by an increased real cost of household healthcare. And in the fourth quarter of 2013 the ObamaCare launch was just sputtering, at best. We should expect consumer spending on services to continue to grow in the first quarter of 2014, largely as a result of non-discretionary healthcare expenses. But given stagnant household income, all of that heavily promoted spending for new coverage through health care exchanges has got to come from somewhere -- with both household discretionary spending and savings taking it on the chin as net spending further transfers to the healthcare industries.

The next GDP report (the first estimate for the first quarter of 2014) will certainly be interesting. It might well be distorted by the bounce-back in Federal spending, and it could reflect ongoing softening of commercial spending for inventories and fixed investments. It will also begin to display the impact of the new healthcare initiatives on household spending and the overall structure of the economy.
 
     


Historical Commentary in PDF Format


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 2014-07-30g Indicators
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 2013-12-05December 5, 2013 - BEA Revises 3rd Quarter 2013 GDP Growth Sharply Upward to 3.60% Annual Rate 
 2013-11-07November 7, 2013 - BEA Estimates 3rd Quarter 2013 GDP Growth at 2.84% Annual Rate 
 2013-09-26September 26, 2013 - BEA Leaves 2nd Quarter 2013 GDP Growth Mostly Unchanged At 2.48% Annual Rate 
 2013-08-29August 29, 2013 - BEA Revises 2nd Quarter 2013 GDP Growth Upward To 2.52% Annual Rate 
 2013-07-31July 31, 2013 - BEA Estimates 2nd Quarter 2013 GDP Growth At 1.68% Annual Rate, While Revising 1st Quarter Sharply Downward 
 2013-06-26June 26, 2013 - BEA Revises 1st Quarter 2013 GDP Growth Downward To 1.78% Annual Rate 
 2013-05-30May 30, 2013 - BEA Revises 1st Quarter 2013 GDP Growth Down Slightly To 2.38% Annual Rate 
 2013-04-26April 26, 2013 - BEA Estimates 1st Quarter 2013 GDP Growing at 2.5% Annual Rate 
 2013-03-28March 28, 2013 - BEA Revises 4th Quarter 2012 GDP Upward to a 0.38% Annual Growth Rate 
 2013-03-19March 19, 2013 - Looking Back and Projecting Forward 
 2013-02-28February 28, 2013 - BEA Revises 4th Quarter 2012 GDP Upward to a 0.14% Annual Growth Rate 
 2013-01-30January 30, 2013 - BEA Reports 4th Quarter 2012 GDP Contracting at -0.14% Annual Rate 
 2013-01-03January 3, 2013 - A Final Review of 2012 Holiday Shopping Season 
 2012-12-20December 20, 2012 - BEA Raises 3rd Quarter 2012 GDP Growth Estimate Once Again to 3.09% 
 2012-12-19December 19, 2012 - Updated Charts and Holiday Consumer Activities Revisited 
 2012-11-29November 29, 2012 - BEA Raises 3rd Quarter 2012 GDP Growth Estimate to 2.67% 
 2012-11-26November 26, 2012 - Quick Update on the Impact of Super-Storm Sandy and the Electoral Blues 
 2012-11-05November 5, 2012 - Sandy and the Pre-Election Blues 
 2012-10-26October 26, 2012 - BEA Reports 3rd Quarter 2012 GDP Growth at 2.02% 
 2012-10-23October 23, 2012 - 3rd Quarter GDP Preview and Chart Updates 
 2012-09-27September 27, 2012 - BEA Revises Annualized GDP Growth Downward to 1.26% 
 2012-08-29August 29, 2012 - BEA Revises Estimate of Annualized GDP Growth to 1.73% 
 2012-08-14August 14, 2012 - Our Weighted Composite Index Continues to Plunge 
 2012-07-27July 27, 2012 - BEA Estimates GDP Grew at 1.54% Rate During 2nd Quarter 
 2012-07-20July 20, 2012 - The Economic Cost of Ugly Politics 
 2012-06-28June 28, 2012 - BEA Leaves GDP Growth Rate Unchanged for 1Q-2012 at 1.88% 
 2012-06-19June 19, 2012 - Commentary and Chart Updates 
 2012-05-31May 31, 2012 - BEA Revises GDP Growth Rate for 1Q-2012 Down to 1.88% 
 2012-05-09May 9, 2012 - Chart Updates and Commentary 
 2012-04-27April 27, 2012 - BEA Report Shows GDP Growth Slowing During 1Q-2012 to 2.20% 
 2012-03-29March 29, 2012 - BEA Leaves 4Q-2011 Annualized GDP Growth Essentially Unchanged at 2.97% 
 2012-02-29February 29, 2012 - BEA Revises 4Q-2011 Annualized GDP Growth to 2.98% 
 2012-01-27January 27, 2012 - Headline 4Q-2011 GDP Growth of 2.75% Masks Mixed Signals 
 2012-01-19January 19, 2012 - Taking a Closer Look at Mixed Signals 
 2011-12-22December 22, 2011 - Third Quarter GDP Revised Downward Yet Again 
 2011-11-22November 22, 2011 - Third Quarter GDP Revised Downward 
 2011-11-11November 11, 2011 - Absolute Demand Index Plummets as Disposable Income Contracts 
 2011-10-27October 27, 2011 - GDP Improves Dramatically 
 2011-10-12October 12, 2011 - What's Going On? 
 2011-09-29September 29, 2011 - BEA Adjusts Second Quarter GDP Growth Rate Upward 
 2011-09-27September 27, 2011 - Chart Updates 
 2011-09-16September 16, 2011 - Data Update and the Sticky Jobs Situation 
 2011-09-09September 9, 2011 - Persistent Questions 
 2011-08-30August 30, 2011 - Has the BEA Already Documented the Second Dip? 
 2011-08-26August 26, 2011 - BEA Lowers Second Quarter GDP Growth Rate to Below 1% 
 2011-08-24August 24, 2011 - Update on Our Indexes 
 2011-08-15August 15, 2011 - Daily Growth Index Surge Continues; But Why? 
 2011-08-05August 5, 2011 - Special Update: Daily Growth Index Breaks Positive 
 2011-08-04August 4, 2011 - The BEA Revisions Revisited 
 2011-08-02August 2, 2011 - New Index & Housing Data 
 2011-07-29July 29, 2011 - BEA Reports 1Q-2011 and "Great Recession" Far Worse Than We Were Previously Told 
 2011-07-23July 23, 2011 - Unexpected Extremes & Mussolini Revisited 
 2011-07-16July 16, 2011 - Weighted Composite Index Continues to Strengthen 
 2011-07-09July 9, 2011 - Continuing Contraction Moderation; Shakespeare's Stimulating Idea 
 2011-07-02July 2, 2011 - Upturn in Daily Growth Index; Stimulating Despite Demographic Dilemmas 
 2011-06-24June 24, 2011 - The BEA's Third (and "Final") Estimate of First Quarter 2011 GDP 
 2011-06-21June 21, 2011 - Updating the Impact of Strategic Defaults 
 2011-06-15June 15, 2011 - Keeping Perspective and Strangulation by Regulation 
 2011-06-05June 5, 2011 - Bottom Bouncing and Scholarly Debt End-Games 
 2011-05-26May 26, 2011 - The BEA's Second Estimate of First Quarter 2011 GDP 
 2011-05-20May 20, 2011 - A Pause in the Ongoing Contraction; Incorporating Debt/GDP End-Games 
 2011-05-14May 14, 2011 - Continued Weakness in Consumer Demand; Unthinkable De-Financialization 
 2011-05-05May 5, 2011 - Resumed Downturns, Retail Sales and Consumer Confidence 
 2011-04-29April 29, 2011 - Bottoming at New Record Lows, Plus Debt/GDP End-Games via Insurrection 
 2011-04-28April 28, 2011 - The BEA's Advance Estimate of First Quarter 2011 GDP 
 2011-04-21April 21, 2011 - Making Sense of Our Indices, Plus Regime Changing Debt/GDP End-Games 
 2011-04-16April 16, 2011 - New Records and "Unthinkable" Sovereign Debt End-Games 
 2011-04-12April 12, 2011 - Updated Charts and Mr. Bernanke's Dilemma 
 2011-04-10April 10, 2011 - Retail Sales and Credit Expansions 
 2011-04-05April 5, 2011 - Automotive Euphoria; Sovereign Debt End-Games 
 2011-03-31March 31, 2011 - Continued Weakness; Divergences Revisited 
 2011-03-25March 25, 2011 - The BEA's Third Estimate of Fourth Quarter 2010 GDP 
 2011-03-23March 23, 2011 - Data Update; Sendai and Japan's Wealth -vs- GDP 
 2011-03-22March 22, 2011 - News and the Consumer, Reflections on Chernobyl and the Economy 
 2011-03-19March 19, 2011 - News and the Consumer, Bad Instruments and Chernobyl 
 2011-03-13March 13, 2011 - Glaring Disconnects and Tsunami Riding Black Swans 
 2011-02-25February 25, 2011 - Inside the BEA's New Lower Estimate of 4Q-2010 GDP Growth 
 2011-02-23February 23, 2011 - Recent Downturns in Our Indexes & the Fallacy Revisited 
 2011-02-16February 16, 2011 - Our Current Outlook and Bastiat's Broken Window 
 2011-02-09February 9, 2011 - An Update Plus Mid February Odds and Ends 
 2011-02-07February 7, 2011 - Measuring the Impact of "Strategic Defaults" and Mortgage Delinquencies on Consumer Spending 
 2011-02-02February 2, 2011 - Answering More Questions about the Q4-2010 GDP Report (Ad Nauseam) 
 2011-01-30January 30, 2011 - More Thoughts on the BEA's "Advance Estimate" for 4Q-2010 
 2011-01-29January 29, 2011 - What the BEA's Advance Estimate of Fourth Quarter 2010 GDP Was Really Telling Us 
 2011-01-12January 12, 2011 - Reflecting Back on 2010 
 2011-01-10January 10, 2011 - Lessons from 2010 
 2010-12-29December 29, 2010 - Looking Back at Holiday Sales and the BEA's Third Estimate for Q3-2010 
 2010-12-14December 14, 2010 - Feeding the Holiday Sales Frenzy While Maintaining Perspective 
 2010-12-07December 7, 2010 - Retail Updates, The Full Economy & GDP Revisited 
 2010-12-01December 1, 2010 - "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" 
 2010-11-23November 23, 2010 - First Revision to the Third Quarter GDP 
 2010-11-22November 22, 2010 - Continued Modest Improvements in Our Weighted Composite Index 
 2010-11-14November 14, 2010 - What Does the Bottom in the Daily Growth Index Mean? 
 2010-11-09November 9, 2010 - Daily Growth Index Shows Signs of Bottom Forming 
 2010-11-07November 7, 2010 - Revisiting the Character of the "Great Recession" 
 2010-10-31October 31, 2010 - The End of Political "FUD" Approaches 
 2010-10-29October 29, 2010 - Inside the Third Quarter GDP Release 
 2010-10-25October 25, 2010 - Current Contraction Surpasses "Great Recession" 
 2010-10-24October 24, 2010 - The U.S. Census Bureau's Retail Sales Report 
 2010-10-17October 17, 2010 - Political "FUD" and the Consumer Psyche 
 2010-10-10October 10, 2010 - Daily Growth Index Sets Record Low and Duration Marks 
 2010-10-05October 5, 2010 - Inside the September GDP Revisions 
 2010-10-03October 3, 2010 - Weakening Weighted Composite Pulls Daily Growth Index to All-Time Low 
 2010-09-26September 26, 2010 - The Diverging GDP 
 2010-09-22September 22, 2010 - NBER: Double Dip or Banana Split? 
 2010-09-20September 20, 2010 - Thoughts on the Recent "Bottom" in our Weighted Composite Index 
 2010-09-18September 18, 2010 - Has the Bottom Been Reached? 
 2010-09-11September 11, 2010 - The Big Scoop and Housing 
 2010-09-02September 2, 2010 - Autos, Personal Finance, and Refinancing 
 2010-09-01September 1, 2010 - Viewing the "Great Recession" in Hi-Def 
 2010-08-30August 30, 2010 - Taking a Closer Look at the "Great Recession" 
 2010-08-28August 28, 2010 - Inside the BEA's Latest GDP Numbers 
 2010-08-22August 22, 2010 - 75 Days of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt 
 2010-08-20August 20, 2010 - Politics and the Economy; Cause and Effect 


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Consumer Metrics Institute Presentation Series:
Economic Data for the 21st Century - Part 1 (Duration 7:35)
 
Economic Data for the 21st Century - Part 2 (Duration 11:35)
 

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