2018 Economic Calendar
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GDP  
Released On 10/26/2018 8:30:00 AM For Q3(a):2018
PriorConsensusConsensus RangeActual
Real GDP - Q/Q change - SAAR4.2 %3.3 %2.6 % to 3.8 %3.5 %
GDP price index - Q/Q change - SAAR3.0 %2.0 %1.4 % to 3.2 %1.7 %
Real Consumer Spending - Q/Q change - SAAR3.8 %3.3 %3.1 % to 3.5 %4.0 %

Highlights
Consumer spending is the driver that it should be, leading a solid third-quarter GDP report that, however, does raise some fundamental questions about the outlook for the economy. GDP came in at a 3.5 percent annualized rate in the quarter which is 2 tenths above Econoday's consensus. Consumer spending, with strength centered in the key durable-goods subcomponent, easily beat high expectations, at a 4.0 percent rate that outdoes the second quarter's very strong 3.8 percent showing.

Business investment wasn't the major star as it has been in prior quarters but still was in the plus column at 0.8 percent growth. Yet the slowing, following growth rates of 8.7 and 11.5 percent in the second and first quarters, may hint at a quick fade for the stimulative effects of this year's corporate tax cut. Residential investment extended its dismal run, falling at a 4.0 percent rate for the fifth contraction of the last six quarters which underscores housing as a problem sector.

Another problem that may be unfolding for the economy is trade. The deficit in net exports widened by a very steep $99.0 billion in the quarter and, by itself, pulled the quarter's GDP down by 1.8 percentage points. Whatever tariff effects there are in the quarter, whether on metals or agriculture, they didn't hold down imports which surged at a 9.1 percent growth rate. Also negative for GDP is exports which posted their first contraction in 2-1/2 years at minus 3.5 percent.

Coming to the rescue and outmatching the trade effect, however, is a constructive $76.3 billion build in inventories which, when measured against the prior quarter, contributed 2.1 percentage points to GDP. Inventories were a major negative in the second quarter, having been drawn down sharply and positioning the third-quarter for what proved to be a major build.

Government purchases round out the components, rising at a 3.3 percent clip and adding 0.6 percentage points to the quarter for one of the strongest showings of the expansion. But stimulus from government purchases is no surprise given the government's massive $4.1 trillion in annual outlays.

Another impact the government has on the economy is monetary policy where interest rates, given the perceived need at the Federal Reserve to cool demand, are going up to fight the risk of inflation. Yet inflation didn't show much life at all in the third-quarter as the GDP price index came in at only 1.7 percent. This misses the consensus by 3 tenths and is the most subdued result since the second-quarter last year.

But the real surprise in the report is the strength of consumer spending where the outlook, given the enormous level of demand for labor, looks very positive. Not positive, however, is the weakness in housing and also trade where the unfolding effects of tariffs and counter-tariffs are a major risk to future quarters. Uncertain in the outlook are inventories which may, however, continue to build given the underlying strength of consumer demand. But inventories, whose effects are abstract, added disproportionately to the quarter's results, without which GDP would have come in no better than 1.4 percent.

Consensus Outlook
The first estimate for third-quarter GDP is expected to come in at a 3.3 percent annualized rate vs 4.2 percent in the second quarter. Consumer spending is expected to also come in at a 3.3 percent rate vs the prior quarter's very strong 3.8 percent. Inventories also look to be a central positive in the quarter along with business investment. Residential investment, however, looks weak. The GDP price index is seen at 2.0 percent vs 3.0 percent.

Definition
Gross Domestic Product represents the total value of the country's production during the period and consists of the purchases of domestically-produced goods and services by individuals, businesses, foreigners and government entities. Data are available in nominal and real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, as well as in index form. Economists and market players always monitor the real growth rates generated by the GDP quantity index or the real dollar value. The quantity index measures inflation-adjusted activity, but we are more accustomed to looking at dollar values.

Household purchases are counted in personal consumption expenditures -- durable goods (such as furniture and cars), nondurable goods (such as clothing and food) and services (such as banking, education and transportation). Private housing purchases are classified as residential investment. Businesses invest in nonresidential structures, durable equipment and computer software. Inventories at all stages of production are counted as investment. Only inventory changes, not levels, are added to GDP.

Net exports equal the sum of exports less imports. Exports are the purchases by foreigners of goods and services produced in the United States. Imports represent domestic purchases of foreign-produced goods and services and must be deducted from the calculation of GDP. Government purchases of goods and services are the compensation of government employees and purchases from businesses and abroad. Data show the portion attributed to consumption and investment. Government outlays for transfer payments or interest payments are not included in GDP.

The GDP price index is a comprehensive indicator of inflation. It is typically lower than the consumer price index because investment goods (which are in the GDP price index but not the CPI) tend to have lower rates of inflation than consumer goods and services. Note that contributions of each component, as averaged over the prior year, are tracked in the table below (components do not exactly sum to total due to chain-weighted methodology). Consumption expenditures, otherwise known as consumer spending, has over history been steadily making up an increasing share of GDP.  Why Investors Care
 
[Chart]
Real GDP in the United States is always quoted at a quarterly annualized rate. It is inflation adjusted and measures at what rate the economy has expanded or contracted over a three-month period. Year-on-year rates are also useful and can offer a smoother view of the economy's trend.
Data Source: Haver Analytics
 
[Chart]
It is common to compare quarterly change at annualized rates in the GDP deflator. But these changes can be volatile and mask the trend which, just like the quarterly swings in GDP, is sometimes more visible in year- on-year change.
Data Source: Haver Analytics
 
 

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