Why 2% GDP Growth in Q3 Still Looks Likely, Despite Many Concerns

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The week of September 28 was a very busy one in economic news. We had home sales, trade data, durable goods, consumer spending and even an upward revision to consumer sentiment. This was also the last full week of the third quarter, and the tariff delays lessened the actual economic impact of the U.S.-China trade war, despite a remaining psychological impact. The combined data from durable goods and consumer spending on Friday created some slight changes in the projections for third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

24/7 Wall St. routinely checks the GDPNow estimate from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Nowcast from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Investors and economists know that these incorporate the most recent economic data, and they often change wildly from week to week as more data comes in. They in no way should be seen as formal predictions about where the actual GDP numbers will come in, and there is still much live data that has yet to be reported for the end of September as the month is not yet completed.

With the financial and mainstream media endlessly touting recession during August, the tone has changed and broader national data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago showed that August just wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth in the third quarter of 2019 is 2.1% as of September 27. That is up from 1.9% back on September 18. After the past two week’s data releases on home sales and from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the gains in real gross private domestic investment growth were said to have more than offset a decrease in the model of third-quarter real consumer spending growth.

The Nowcast indicates that GDP growth will be 2.1% (rounded up from 2.06%) for the third quarter of 2019 and 1.8% for the fourth quarter of 2019. News from this week’s data releases did decrease the New York Fed’s estimate by about 0.2 percentage points for both quarters, and prompting that drop were the negative surprises in manufacturing data seen in durable goods and in wholesale trade inventories data.

It is not unusual to see each Federal Reserve’s live views show different directional changes. As the data continues to pour in, there likely will be more changes made to these models. That said, so far third-quarter GDP appears to be running at or just above 2.0% in the third quarter of 2019. That would be close to flat with the 2.0% GDP growth of the second quarter and down from 3.1% GDP growth in the fourth quarter.

As for the size of the economy as a whole, the current-dollar GDP was $21.34 trillion as of the second quarter of 2019.


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