The U.S. Department of Commerce has released an updated view on fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP). As expected, the biggest measurement of economic growth was revised down to 2.2% from the preliminary 2.6% reading.
The driving force behind the revisions was lower consumer spending, as well as spending by governments and businesses. Remember that consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of GDP.
One focal point in the report was that the revision contained fourth-quarter corporate profits. Those after-tax profits, without inventory valuations and capital consumption adjustments, were down 1.7% from the prior quarter. Still, that reading was up by 11.1% from the same quarter a year earlier, as tax reform boosted the numbers handily. With the adjustments, corporate profits were flat.
Ongoing concerns about trade issues with China, a slowing global economy and the start of a partial government shutdown were all additional weaker factors affecting the numbers this time around. The report also initially had been delayed due to the government shutdown’s impact on the data.
While this reading was lower than the initial estimate, it was exactly in line with what economists were expecting, and the data is now almost 90 days old. Those revisions rarely make the markets move, compared to the initial reports.
The Dow futures had been down about 25 points earlier in the morning and were last seen up five points. The S&P 500 futures were down about three points earlier in the morning and were last seen down just under a point.
What continues to enthrall the markets is the inverted yield curve, wherein short-term Treasury yields are higher than long-term ones. The yield on the 10-year treasury was last seen down four basis points at 2.375%. That compares to yields of about 2.60% prior to the Federal Reserve’s announced expectations that it likely would not be hiking interest rates any more in 2019.