Wed Feb 28 07:30:00 CST 2018

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous
Real GDP - Q/Q change - SAAR 2.5% 2.3% to 2.6% 2.5% 2.6%
GDP price index - Q/Q change - SAAR 2.4% 2.4% to 2.4% 2.3% 2.4%
Real Consumer Spending – Q/Q change – SAAR 3.7% 3.6% to 3.7% 3.8% 3.8%
Real Govt Spending - Q/Q change - SAAR 2.9% 3.0%

There's very little change between the second and first estimates for fourth-quarter GDP, revised 1 tenth lower to an as-expected 2.5 percent annualized rate. Consumer spending is unchanged at a very strong 3.8 percent as downward revisions to spending on durables (down 4 tenths to a 13.8 percent rate) and nondurables (down 9 tenths to 4.3 percent) are offset by an upward revision to the largest category of service spending (up 3 tenths at 2.1 percent).

Residential investment gets a noticeable upgrade to a 13.1 percent rate from 11.6 percent in the first estimate while nonresidential investment is lowered by 2 tenths to 6.6 percent. These are both very solid and, like consumer spending, point to fundamental economic demand. Net exports are virtually unchanged in today's revisions, at a very sizable $652.2 billion and pulling down the quarter's headline GDP rate by 1.1 percentage points. Inventories are also a negative, slowing in the quarter to an $8.0 billion build from $38.5 billion in the third quarter and pulling down the headline by 0.7 points.

Another one of the positives in the quarter is government purchases which are revised marginally lower to 2.9 percent. This rate may become a positive wildcard in future quarters given the outlook for increased deficit spending. Another possible positive is inventory growth which is off to a fast start so far this quarter as businesses scramble to restock shelves amid strong demand.

Strength is definitely the message of this report, masked by the nation's trade imbalance and the quarter's inventory change excluding which GDP rose 4.3 percent, a reading that is unchanged from the first estimate. On the inflation front, the GDP price index rose 2 tenths in the quarter to a 2.3 percent rate which is down 1 tenth from the first estimate though the core, however, is revised 1 tenth higher to 2.2 percent which, in a hint of building pressures, marks a 6 tenths acceleration from the third quarter.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
The second estimate for fourth-quarter GDP is expected to come in at a 2.5 percent annualized rate vs 2.6 percent in the first estimate. The consumer is still likely to be the driver in the fourth quarter but looks to get trimmed slightly following downward revisions to retail sales. Consumer spending is expected to rise at a 3.7 percent pace vs 3.8 percent in the first estimate. The GDP price index is seen at a 2.4 percent rate.

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.

GDP is the all-inclusive measure of economic activity. Investors need to closely track the economy because it usually dictates how investments will perform. Investors in the stock market like to see healthy economic growth because robust business activity translates to higher corporate profits. Bond investors are more highly sensitive to inflation and robust economic activity could potentially pave the road to inflation. By tracking economic data such as GDP, investors will know what the economic backdrop is for these markets and their portfolios.

The GDP report contains a treasure-trove of information which not only paints an image of the overall economy, but tells investors about important trends within the big picture. GDP components such as consumer spending, business and residential investment, and price (inflation) indexes illuminate the economy's undercurrents, which can translate to investment opportunities and guidance in managing a portfolio.

Gross domestic product is the country's most comprehensive economic scorecard.

When gross domestic product expands more (less) rapidly that its potential, bond prices fall (rise). Healthy GDP growth usually translates into strong corporate earnings, which bode well for the stock market.

The four major categories of GDP -- personal consumption expenditures, investment, net exports and government -- all reveal important information about the economy and should be monitored separately. One can thus determine the strengths and weaknesses of the economy in order to assess alternatives and make appropriate financial investment decisions.

Economists and financial market participants monitor final sales -- GDP less the change in business inventories. When final sales are growing faster than inventories, this points to increases in production in months ahead. Conversely, when final sales are growing more slowly than inventories, they signal a slowdown in production.

It is useful to distinguish between private demand versus growth in government expenditures. Market players discount growth in the government sector because it depends on fiscal policy rather than economic conditions.

Market participants view increased expenditures on investment favorably because they expand the productive capacity of the country. This means that we can produce more without inciting inflationary pressures.

Net exports are a drag on total GDP because the United States regularly imports more than it exports, that is, net exports are in deficit. When the net export deficit becomes less negative, it adds to growth because a smaller amount is subtracted from GDP. When the deficit widens, it subtracts even more from GDP.

Gross domestic product is subject to some quarterly volatility, so it is appropriate to follow year-over-year percent changes, to smooth out this variation.