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posted on 27 May 2016

Second Estimate 1Q2016 GDP Revised Slightly Upward to 0.8%

Written by Doug Short and Steven Hansen

The second estimate of first quarter 2016 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a positive 0.8 %. This is a moderate increase from the advance estimate's +0.5 % if one looks at quarter-over-quarter headline growth. Year-over-year growth declined from the previous quarter. There was no major reason for the improvement in GDP - just minor adjustments.

The market expected:

Seasonally Adjusted Quarter-over-Quarter Change at annual rate Consensus Range Consensus Advance Actual 2nd Estimate Actual
Real GDP 0.5 % to 1.1 % +0.9 % +0.5 % +0.8 %
GDP price index 0.6 % to 0.7 % +0.7 % +0.7 % +0.6 %
  • Headline GDP is calculated by annualizing one quarter's data against the previous quarters data (and the previous quarter was relatively strong in this instance). A better method would be to look at growth compared to the same quarter one year ago. For 1Q2016, the year-over-year growth is 2.0 % - unchanged from 4Q2015's 2.0 % year-over-year growth. So one might say that the rate of GDP growth was unchanged from the previous quarter.

Real GDP Expressed As Year-over-Year Change

This second estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "advance" estimate issued last month. (See caveats below.)

Real GDP per Capita

The table below compares the 3Q2015 third estimate of GDP (Table 1.1.2) with the advance estimate of 4Q2015 GDP which shows:

  • consumption for goods and services declined.
  • trade balance degraded
  • there was significant inventory change removing 0.33% from GDP
  • there was slower fixed investment growth
  • there was slightly more government spending

The arrows in the table below highlight significant differences between 4Q2015 and 1Q2016 (green is good influence, and red is a negative influence).

[click on graphic below to enlarge]

What the BEA says about the second estimate of GDP:

Real gross domestic product -- the value of the goods and services produced by the nation's economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes -- increased at an annual rate of 0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to the "second" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 1.4 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "advance" estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 0.5 percent. With the second estimate for the first quarter, the decrease in private inventory investment was smaller than previously estimated (see "Revisions" on page 2)

The increase in real GDP in the fourth quarter reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), residential fixed investment, and federal government spending that were partly offset by negative contributions from exports, nonresidential fixed investment, state and local government spending, and private inventory investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), residential fixed investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by negative contributions from nonresidential fixed investment, exports, private inventory investment, and federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

Inflation continues to moderate as the "deflator" which adjusts the current value GDP to a "real" comparable value continues to moderate. The following compares the GDP deflator to the Consumer Price Index:

BLS tabulation of the changes to 1Q2016 GDP:

The second estimate of the first quarter percent change in real GDP is 0.3 percentage point more than the advance estimate issued last month, primarily reflecting upward revisions to private inventory investment, to residential fixed investment, and to exports and a downward revision to imports. For more information, see the Technical Note. For information on revisions, see "The Revisions to GDP, GDI, and Their Major Components."

For the fourth quarter of 2015, real GDI was revised up 1.0 percentage point, from 0.9 percent to 1.9 percent.

Overview Analysis:

Here is a look at Quarterly GDP since Q2 1947. Prior to 1947, GDP was calculated annually. To be more precise, the chart shows is the annualized percent change from the preceding quarter in Real (inflation-adjusted) Gross Domestic Product. We've also included recessions, which are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Also illustrated are the 3.23% average (arithmetic mean) and the 10-year moving average, currently at 1.30 percent.

Note: The headline 0.8% real compounded rate of change is 0.84% at two decimal places.

Here is a log-scale chart of real GDP with an exponential regression, which helps us understand growth cycles since the 1947 inception of quarterly GDP. The latest number puts us 14.9% below trend, the largest negative spread in the history of this series.

A particularly telling representation of slowing growth in the US economy is the year-over-year rate of change. The average rate at the start of recessions is 3.35%. Eight of the 11 recessions over this timeframe have begun at a higher level of real YoY GDP.

Click to View

In summary, the Q1 GDP Second Estimate of was an slight increase over the Advance Estimate but a bit below the mainstream expectations.

The chart below is a way to visualize real GDP change since 2007. The chart uses a stacked column chart to segment the four major components of GDP with a dashed line overlay to show the sum of the four, which is real GDP itself. As the analysis clear shows, personal consumption is key factor in GDP mathematics.

Click to View

Caveats on the Use of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

GDP is market value of all final goods and services produced within the USA where money is used in the transaction - and it is expressed as an annualized number. GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exports − imports), or GDP = C + I + G + (X - M). GDP counts monetary expenditures. It is designed to count value added so that goods are not counted over and over as they move through the manufacture - wholesale - retail chain.

The vernacular relating to the different GDP releases:

"Advance" estimates, based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency, are released near the end of the first month after the end of the quarter; as more detailed and more comprehensive data become available, "second" and "third" estimates are released near the end of the second and third months, respectively. The "latest" estimates reflect the results of both annual and comprehensive revisions.

Consider that GDP includes the costs of suing your neighbor or McDonald's for hot coffee spilled in your crotch, plastic surgery or cancer treatment, buying a new aircraft carrier for the military, or even the replacement of your house if it burns down - yet little of these activities is real economic growth.

GDP does not include include home costs (other than the new home purchase price even though mortgaged up the kazoo), interest rates, bank charges, or the money spent buying anything used.

It does not measure wealth, disposable income, or employment.

In short, GDP does not measure the change of the economic environment for Joe Sixpack in 1970, and Joe Sixpack's kid, yet pundits continuously compare GDP across time periods.

Although there always will be some correlation between all economic pulse points, GDP does not measure the economic elements that directly impact the quality of life of its citizens.

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