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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:02/201603/201604/201605/201606/201607/201608/201609/201610/201611/2016
Value:94.6192.5089.7984.2296.69101.17100.8897.4096.2295.19


Daily Growth Index Past 60 Days


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


 


Daily Growth Index -vs- Full GDP Past 48 Months


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


 


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


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


 


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


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


 


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


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


 


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


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


 

Commentary


     
  November 29, 2016 - BEA Estimates 3rd Quarter 2016 GDP Growth to be 3.15%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the third quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the growth rate was +3.15%, up +0.24% from their previous estimate and up +1.73% from the prior quarter.

Most of the improvement in the headline number came from a +0.42% upward revision to consumer spending. Spending on consumer goods was revised upward by +0.26%, and spending on consumer services was reported to be +0.16% better than previously thought. However, both of these numbers remain below the growth levels recorded in the prior quarter (and were in aggregate -0.99% lower than 2Q-2016). The generally noisy inventory growth rate was revised downward by -0.12% to +0.49%. None of the revisions to the other line items in the report were material.

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 a +2.66% growth rate, up +0.36% from the previous estimate and now up +0.08% from 2Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was reported to have grown by $176 quarter-to-quarter, to an annualized $39,234 (in 2009 dollars). Not all of that increase was spent; the household savings rate increased +0.2% to 5.9%.

For this revision the BEA assumed a slightly lower effective annualized deflator of 1.39%. During the same quarter (July 2016 through September 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 1.84%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been lower, at a +2.74% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

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

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services improved to +1.15% (which also remains down -0.22% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.89%, down a significant -0.99% from 2Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments remained negative at -0.15%. Although this is a slightly smaller contraction than during the previous quarter, it still represents the fourth consecutive quarter of contraction in commercial fixed investments.

-- The contribution from inventories softened somewhat, adding +0.49% to the headline (while still up up a dramatic +1.65% from 2Q-2016 -- after a string of five consecutive quarters of contraction). It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- The positive headline contribution from governmental spending was essentially halved; it was revised downward by -0.04% to +0.05%. This was still up an historically large +0.35% from the prior quarter. This momentary growth was almost certainly due to increased Federal fiscal year-end ("spend every last budgeted dime -- even if we can't possibly use whatever it is that we are buying") spending -- a recurring annual phenomenon that is accompanied by an offsetting fourth calendar quarter (first fiscal quarter) reversal of that growth.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports improved slightly to +1.18% (up +0.01% in this revision and +0.97% from the prior quarter).

-- Imports subtracted -0.31% from the headline number, up +0.03% in this revision but down -0.28% from the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" was revised upward +0.36% to +2.66%, and it is up +0.08% from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory growth.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was reported to have grown $176 quarter-to-quarter in this report. At the same time the household savings rate was revised to 5.9%, the same level recorded in the second quarter of 2016. It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.97% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.82% growth rate over the past 33 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) $18.7 = $12.8 + $3.0 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.7% + 16.1% + 17.6% + -2.5%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 3.15% = 1.89% + 0.34% + 0.05% + 0.87%


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

Quarterly Changes in % Contributions to GDP

3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013
Total GDP Growth 3.15% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18% 3.96% 3.12% 0.78% 2.83%
Consumer Goods 0.74% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54% 0.90% 0.67% 0.30% 1.30%
Consumer Services 1.15% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73% 1.39% 0.61% 0.28% 0.02%
Fixed Investment -0.15% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79% 1.01% 0.48% 0.70% 1.12%
Inventories 0.49% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89% -0.11% 1.60% 0.08% 0.92%
Government 0.05% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19% -0.53% -0.37% -0.37% -0.83%
Exports 1.18% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39% 1.54% 0.41% 0.65% 0.52%
Imports -0.31% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77% -0.24% -0.28% -0.86% -0.22%
Real Final Sales 2.66% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71% 4.07% 1.52% 0.70% 1.91%





Summary and Commentary

The headline number now indicates a "normal" and healthy annualized growth rate slightly in excess of 3%. It is also good that the upward revision was a result of upwardly revised consumer spending. Some items of note in the report were:

-- The prior quarter's growth in consumer spending still took a major quarter-to-quarter hit (it was down nearly a full percent).

-- We believe that it is plausible that the "fear, uncertainty and doubt" (FUD) surrounding an especially uncivil election campaign contributed to lousy consumer sentiments and a corresponding spending malaise. If so, some of that has certainly carried over into the current quarter as well.

-- Although the BEA is really proud of their "seasonal adjustments," somehow the highly predictable Federal fiscal year-end spending shenanigans completely escapes them. This momentary "growth" in Federal spending has merely been brought forward from the 4Q-2016.

-- Commercial fixed investment remains weak, and it has now recorded four consecutive quarterly contractions.

-- Most of the quarter-to-quarter improvements in the contributions to the headline number came from two especially noisy line items: inventories and exports. The quarter-to-quarter swing in those two line items in aggregate represent +2.62% of the headline number. When the quarter-to-quarter +0.35% "improvement" in governmental spending is included, it could be argued that the vast majority of the 3% headline number is from either noisy data or simply borrowed from the next quarter.

In summary, a good report with somewhat better consumer spending but equally unsettling commercial fixed investments.
 
     
     
  October 28, 2016 - BEA Estimates 3rd Quarter 2016 GDP Growth to be 2.91%:

In their first ("preliminary") estimate of the US GDP for the third quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the growth rate was +2.91%, up +1.49% from the prior quarter.

Most of the reported improvement in the headline number came from a +1.77% quarter-to-quarter gain in inventories, a +0.96% rise in exports, and a +0.39% uptick in governmental spending. Offsetting those improvements was an aggregate -1.41% reduction in the headline number from softening consumer spending on both goods and services. Fixed investments remained in contraction at a -0.09% annualized rate.

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 a +2.30% growth rate, down -0.28% from 2Q-2016. If we take the BEA's "bottom line" at face value, economic growth actually softened during the third quarter.

Real annualized household disposable income was reported to have grown by $127 in this report, to an annualized $39,103 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate remained unchanged at 5.7%.

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 1.48%. During the same quarter (July 2016 through September 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 1.84%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been somewhat lower, at a +2.60% annualized growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods decreased substantially to a +0.48% growth rate (down a material -1.03% from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services also went down to +0.99% (down -0.38% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +1.47%, down a significant -1.41% (nearly half) from 2Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments remained negative at -0.09%. Although this is up +0.09% from the previous quarter, it represents the fourth consecutive quarter of contraction in commercial fixed investments.

-- The contribution from inventories flipped to a positive number in this report, adding 0.61% (up a dramatic +1.77% from 2Q-2016 -- after a string of five consecutive quarters of contraction). It is important to remember that the BEA's inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

-- In no real surprise, the headline contribution from governmental spending was a positive +0.09% -- up +0.39% from the prior quarter. This momentary growth was entirely due to increased Federal fiscal year-end ("spend every last budgeted dime -- even if we can't possibly use whatever it is that we are buying") spending -- a recurring annual phenomenon that is accompanied by an offsetting fourth calendar quarter (first fiscal quarter) reversal of that growth.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports improved significantly to +1.17% (up +0.96% from the prior quarter).

-- Imports subtracted -0.34% from the headline number, down -0.31% from the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" actually decreased to +2.30%, down -0.28% from the prior quarter. This is the BEA's "bottom line" measurement of the economy and it excludes the reported inventory growth.

-- As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income was reported to have grown $127 in this report. The household savings rate was unchanged, and it remains down from the first quarter of 2016. It is important to keep this line item in perspective : real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.61% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.78% growth rate over the past 33 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) $18.7 = $12.8 + $3.0 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.7% + 16.2% + 17.6% + -2.5%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 2.91% = 1.47% + 0.52% + 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

3Q-2016 2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013
Total GDP Growth 2.91% 1.42% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18% 3.96% 3.12% 0.78% 2.83%
Consumer Goods 0.48% 1.51% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54% 0.90% 0.67% 0.30% 1.30%
Consumer Services 0.99% 1.37% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73% 1.39% 0.61% 0.28% 0.02%
Fixed Investment -0.09% -0.18% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79% 1.01% 0.48% 0.70% 1.12%
Inventories 0.61% -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89% -0.11% 1.60% 0.08% 0.92%
Government 0.09% -0.30% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19% -0.53% -0.37% -0.37% -0.83%
Exports 1.17% 0.21% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39% 1.54% 0.41% 0.65% 0.52%
Imports -0.34% -0.03% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77% -0.24% -0.28% -0.86% -0.22%
Real Final Sales 2.30% 2.58% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71% 4.07% 1.52% 0.70% 1.91%





Summary and Commentary

The headline number proclaims a miraculous return to a (nearly) "normal and healthy" 3% annualized growth rate. And luckily just in the nick of time -- mere days before the next Presidential election.

As pleasant as a rousing chorus of "Happy Days are Here Again" may be, a rational person might notice several cautionary items in the report :

-- The prior quarter's growth in consumer spending took a major hit (it was nearly halved). This finding is consistent with most consumer sentiment surveys, and it is plausibly a consequence of the continued weak growth in disposable income.

-- It is possible that the "fear, uncertainty and doubt" (FUD) surrounding an especially uncivil election campaign contributed to consumer sentiments and the spending malaise. If so, that trend has certainly extended into the current quarter as well.

-- It is plausible that massive political media buys displaced normal commercial advertising in ways that impacted consumer spending.

-- Although the BEA is really proud of their "seasonal adjustments," somehow the highly predictable (pre-election) Federal fiscal year-end spending shenanigans completely escapes them. This momentary "growth" in Federal spending has merely been brought forward from the 4Q-2016.

-- Most of the quarter-to-quarter improvements in the contributions to the headline number came from two especially noisy line items: inventories and exports. These line items are susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price and currency swings -- even as physical inventories or export transactions are relatively unchanged.

-- It could be argued that inventory growth after five consecutive quarters of contraction was simply an overdue reversion to a zero-sum trend line. Or, alternately, that they are just another indication of weakening end consumer demand.

-- The BEA's own "bottom line" growth metric weakened on a quarter-to-quarter basis.

We suggest that a more cynical view of this miraculous recovery might be warranted.
 
     
     
  September 29, 2016 - BEA Revises 2nd Quarter 2016 GDP Growth Upward to 1.42%:

In their third and final estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the growth rate was +1.42%, up +0.33% from their previous estimate and up +0.59% from the prior quarter. Most of the improvement in the headline number came from a +0.24% upward revision in commercial fixed investment. None of the other revisions were statistically significant.

Despite the upward revision to commercial fixed investments, that line item remained in contraction at a -0.18% annualized rate. Inventories also contracted materially (at a -1.16% annualized rate). Consumer spending growth continues to provide the vast majority of the net growth, with spending on consumer goods contributed +1.51% to the headline, while spending on consumer services provided another +1.37% (a combined +2.88% contribution, more that twice the net headline number).

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 a +2.58% growth rate, up 1.34% from 1Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was revised downward $19 in this report, to an annualized $38,976 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate remained unchanged at 5.7% (which is down from a 6.1% savings rate in the prior quarter).

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.29%. During the same quarter (April 2016 through June 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 3.42%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been significantly lower, at a +0.31% growth rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods decreased slightly to a +1.51% growth rate (representing a substantial +1.26% improvement from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services also went down to +1.37% (although it is still up +0.51% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.88%, up a hearty +1.77% from 1Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments remained negative at -0.18%. Although this is up +0.24% from the previous report, it is still down -0.03% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution from inventories remained negative, subtracting -1.16% from the headline number, down -0.75% from 1Q-2016. 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.

-- The contribution from governmental spending softened once again, subtracting -0.30% from the headline. This weakening was primarily due to decreased capital spending at state and local levels, with Federal spending essentially flat.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports improved slightly to +0.21% (up +0.30% from the prior quarter).

-- Imports subtracted -0.03% from the headline number, down -0.12% from the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" improved to +2.58%, which is still up +1.34% from 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 downward $19 in this report (and is now up $132 from the prior quarter). The household savings rate was unchanged, and it remains down from the prior quarter. Most of the increased quarter-to-quarter consumer spending came from that decreased savings rate. It is important to keep this line item in perspective : real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.27% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.76% growth rate over the past 32 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) $18.5 = $12.7 + $3.0 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.8% + 16.2% + 17.7% + -2.7%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.42% = 2.88% + -1.34% + -0.30% + 0.18%


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





Summary and Commentary

The only significant revision in this report involves a softening of the previously reported deep contraction in commercial fixed investment. The rest of the changes in this report were merely statistical noise. The report continued to show a US economy moving forward at modest 1.42% growth rate.

The key "big picture" items in this report include the following :

-- Most things not consumer related remained in contraction. It is a decently positive report that continues to mask commercial weakness.

-- Although consumer spending growth was relatively strong, most of that increased spending ultimately came from savings -- and not from improved disposable income.

-- The majority of the reported growth disappears when a third party deflator (the BLS CPI-U) is applied to the nominal data.

The next report (for the third quarter of 2016) could -- in theory -- be very interesting. But the timing -- 11 days before the Presidential election -- argues against any startling numbers, however accurate they may be. At similar points in both 2008 and 2012 we saw "steady as we go" numbers that were 1) subsequently revised downward, and 2) artificially boosted by a Federal fiscal year-end "spend-every-last-budgeted-penny" spree that merely brought apparent growth forward at the ultimate expense of the respective fourth quarters.

We shouldn't expect anything less in 2016.
 
     
     
  August 26, 2016 - BEA Revises 2nd Quarter 2016 GDP Growth Downward to 1.09%:

In their second estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the growth rate was +1.09%, down -0.12% from their previous estimate but up +0.26% from the prior quarter. None of the revisions was statistically significant, with the largest line item revision (governmental spending) changing by a mere -0.11%.

The ongoing trend of commercial weakness offset by consumer spending growth was confirmed. This estimate reported continued slow contraction in commercial fixed investment (-0.42%), inventories (-1.26%) and governmental spending (-0.27%). Meanwhile consumer spending on goods (+1.52% growth) and services (+1.42%) remained strong.

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 a +2.35% growth rate, up 1.11% from 1Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was revised upward $101 in this report, to an annualized $38,995 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate was also revised upward to 5.7% (which is still down from a 6.1% savings rate in the prior quarter).

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.32%. During the same quarter (April 2016 through June 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 3.42%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been significantly lower, at a miniscule +0.01% rate.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods improved to a +1.52% growth rate (representing a +1.27% improvement from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer spending on services also improved to +1.42% (up +0.56% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.94%, up +1.83% from 1Q-2016.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments remained negative at -0.42%, down -0.27% from the prior quarter.

-- The contribution from inventories remained negative, subtracting -1.26% from the headline number, down -0.85% from 1Q-2016. 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.

-- The contribution from governmental spending softened, subtracting -0.27% from the headline. This weakening was entirely due to decreased capital spending at state and local levels, with Federal spending essentially flat.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports was positive at +0.14% (up +0.23% from the prior quarter).

-- Imports subtracted -0.04% from the headline number, down -0.13% from the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" weakened slightly to +2.35%, which is still up +1.11% from 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 upward $101 in this report (and is now up $151 from the prior quarter), and the household savings rates was also revised upward. Although the household savings rate was revised upward in this report, it is still down from the prior quarter -- and most of the increased quarter-to-quarter consumer spending came from that decreased savings rate. It remains important to keep this line item in perspective. Real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.32% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.77% growth rate over the past 32 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) $18.4 = $12.7 + $3.0 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.9% + 16.1% + 17.7% + -2.7%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.09% = 2.94% + -1.68% + -0.27% + 0.10%


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-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013
Total GDP Growth 1.09% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18% 3.96% 3.12% 0.78% 2.83%
Consumer Goods 1.52% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54% 0.90% 0.67% 0.30% 1.30%
Consumer Services 1.42% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73% 1.39% 0.61% 0.28% 0.02%
Fixed Investment -0.42% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79% 1.01% 0.48% 0.70% 1.12%
Inventories -1.26% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89% -0.11% 1.60% 0.08% 0.92%
Government -0.27% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19% -0.53% -0.37% -0.37% -0.83%
Exports 0.14% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39% 1.54% 0.41% 0.65% 0.52%
Imports -0.04% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77% -0.24% -0.28% -0.86% -0.22%
Real Final Sales 2.35% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71% 4.07% 1.52% 0.70% 1.91%





Summary and Commentary

Arguably this report was merely statistical noise. It continued to show a US economy moving forward, but with a decidedly lack-luster 1.09% growth rate.

The key items in this report:

-- All things not consumer either weakened or remained in contraction.

-- Consumer spending growth improved yet again, with most of that coming from savings.

-- All of the reported growth disappears when a third party deflator (the BLS CPI-U) is applied to the data.

Once again a mildly positive report masked considerable commercial weakness. We wouldn't expect any other kind of report until the election is put to bed.
 
     
     
  July 29, 2016 - BEA Estimates 2nd Quarter 2016 GDP Growth At 1.21%:

In their first preliminary estimate of the US GDP for the second quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the growth rate was +1.21%, up 0.38% from a downwardly revised prior quarter.

The most notable item in the report was the continued contraction of US commercial fixed investments, which subtracted -0.52% from the quarter's headline growth rate (down -0.37% from a downwardly revised first quarter). This was the third consecutive quarterly decline for fixed investments. Inventories also contracted (subtracting -1.16% from the headline), in this case for the fifth consecutive quarter.

The positives from the report were almost entirely consumer spending. Consumer spending on goods rebounded nicely from a couple of soft quarters to provide a decent 1.45% of the headline (up 1.20% from an upwardly revised first quarter), while spending on services also strengthened to a healthy 1.38% contribution (up 0.52% from a downwardly revised first quarter). Combined spending on goods and services provided a reported 2.83% of the headline annualized growth rate.

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 a +2.37% growth rate, up 1.13% from 1Q-2016.

Real annualized household disposable income was reported to have grown by $181 during the quarter, to an annualized $38,894 (in 2009 dollars). The household savings rate dropped to 5.5% (from a revised 6.1% in the prior quarter).

For this revision the BEA assumed an effective annualized deflator of 2.22%. During the same quarter (April 2016 through June 2016) the inflation recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in their CPI-U index was 3.42%. Under estimating inflation results in correspondingly optimistic growth rates, and if the BEA's "nominal" data was deflated using CPI-U inflation information the headline growth number would have been significantly lower, at an essentially flat +0.03%.

Separately the BEA revised all of their historic data for 2013 to date. Each of the preceding 4 quarters was revised downward in total, with the negative changes ranging from a material -1.30% (2Q-2015) to an insignificant -0.01% (3Q-2015). The average revision over the entire 13 quarter span was 0.0215%, indicating that the revisions were mostly the zero-sum moving of reported economic activity from one quarter to another.

Among the notable items in the report :

-- The headline contribution from consumer expenditures for goods improved significantly to a +1.45% growth (representing a 1.20% improvement from the prior quarter).

-- The contribution to the headline from consumer services also improved to +1.38% (up +0.52% from the prior quarter). The combined consumer contribution to the headline number was +2.83%, up +1.72% from 1Q-2016 -- breaking a prior three quarter trend of materially weaker growth in consumer spending.

-- The headline contribution from commercial private fixed investments remained negative at -0.52%, down -0.37% from a downward revised prior quarter.

-- The contribution from inventories remained negative, subtracting -1.16% from the headline number and down -0.75 from 1Q-2016. 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 softened, subtracting -0.16% from the headline. This contraction was entirely due to decreased capital spending at state and local levels, with Federal spending essentially flat.

-- The contribution to the headline number from exports was positive at +0.16% (an improvement of +0.25% from a downward revision of the prior quarter).

-- Imports added +0.06% to the headline number, down -0.03% from the prior quarter.

-- The "real final sales of domestic product" improved to +2.37%, up +1.13% from a downwardly revised 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 improved by $181 during the quarter, and household savings rates declined -- which largely accounts for the improved consumer spending. It is important to keep this line item in perspective. Real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +6.04% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 -- a meager annualized +0.74% growth rate over the past 32 quarters.




The Numbers, with Prior Quarters Revised

As a quick reminder, the classic definition of the GDP can be summarized with the following equation :

GDP = private consumption + gross private investment + government spending + (exports - imports)


or, as it is commonly expressed in algebraic shorthand :

GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)


In the new report the values for that equation (total dollars, percentage of the total GDP, and contribution to the final percentage growth number) are as follows :

GDP Components Table

Total GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)
Annual $ (trillions) $18.4 = $12.7 + $3.0 + $3.3 + $-0.5
% of GDP 100.0% = 68.8% + 16.1% + 17.7% + -2.7%
Contribution to GDP Growth % 1.21% = 2.83% + -1.68% + -0.16% + 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

2Q-2016 1Q-2016 4Q-2015 3Q-2015 2Q-2015 1Q-2015 4Q-2014 3Q-2014 2Q-2014 1Q-2014 4Q-2013 3Q-2013 2Q-2013 1Q-2013
Total GDP Growth 1.21% 0.83% 0.88% 1.98% 2.62% 2.05% 2.31% 4.96% 3.96% -1.18% 3.96% 3.12% 0.78% 2.83%
Consumer Goods 1.45% 0.25% 0.47% 0.92% 0.94% 0.59% 1.14% 0.98% 1.50% 0.54% 0.90% 0.67% 0.30% 1.30%
Consumer Services 1.38% 0.86% 1.07% 0.89% 1.00% 1.04% 1.93% 1.54% 1.06% 0.73% 1.39% 0.61% 0.28% 0.02%
Fixed Investment -0.52% -0.15% -0.03% 0.92% 0.70% 0.61% 0.22% 1.16% 1.12% 0.79% 1.01% 0.48% 0.70% 1.12%
Inventories -1.16% -0.41% -0.36% -0.57% -0.52% 1.01% 0.23% 0.32% 0.67% -1.89% -0.11% 1.60% 0.08% 0.92%
Government -0.16% 0.28% 0.18% 0.34% 0.57% 0.45% -0.07% 0.46% 0.02% -0.19% -0.53% -0.37% -0.37% -0.83%
Exports 0.16% -0.09% -0.34% -0.36% 0.37% -0.78% 0.60% 0.29% 1.16% -0.39% 1.54% 0.41% 0.65% 0.52%
Imports 0.06% 0.09% -0.11% -0.16% -0.44% -0.87% -1.74% 0.21% -1.57% -0.77% -0.24% -0.28% -0.86% -0.22%
Real Final Sales 2.37% 1.24% 1.24% 2.55% 3.14% 1.04% 2.08% 4.64% 3.29% 0.71% 4.07% 1.52% 0.70% 1.91%





Summary and Commentary

This report shows a US economy moving forward with a lack-luster 1.21% growth rate. It also contained downward revisions to the prior 4 quarters.

Recapping the key items in this report:

-- Private commercial investment contracted for the third consecutive quarter.

-- Improved consumer spending growth was the only redeeming part of the report.

-- Most of the increased consumer spending came from decreased household savings.

Although this report is net (and mildly) positive, the increased consumer spending masked considerable commercial weakness.
 
     


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