BEA Estimates 2nd Quarter 2018 GDP Growth At 4.07%

The Numbers, Nearly All 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

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 

Summary and Commentary 

A headline number showing +4.07% growth makes us want to break into a boisterous refrain of "Happy Days are Here Again." Some will undoubtedly claim that the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017" is making America great again. And the BEA's own "bottom line" Real Final Sales growth was reported to be +5.07% -- a number that some might consider to be unsustainably high or an early indication of an overheating economy. At minimum, it signals that the Fed's accommodations over the past decade are no longer needed. 

One cautionary point should be made for the data geeks: in a number of cases (particularly household savings rates) the revisions were substantial enough that they materially changed our understanding of how the historical economy was behaving. As a glaring example, the household savings rates since 2012 were substantially increased -- including an essential doubling of the savings rates for the prior four quarters. These kind of revisions suggest major methodology changes that can make historical comparisons problematic. 

While we are pleased to find the economy growing far faster than we had previously expected, the historical revisions leave us with a sense of unease. 
 

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