Thursday, April 28, 2011

Advance Report: Real Annualized GDP Grew at 1.8% in Q1

by Bill McBride on 4/28/2011 08:55:00 AM

From the BEA:

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter) according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis
GDP Growth Rate Click on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

This graph shows the quarterly GDP growth (at an annual rate) for the last 30 years. The dashed line is the current growth rate. Growth in Q1 at 1.8% annualized was below trend growth (around 3.1%) - and very weak for a recovery, especially with all the slack in the system.

A few key numbers:
• Real personal consumption expenditures increased 2.7 percent (annual rate) in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 4.0 percent in Q4 2010. This is higher than the pace in January and February, and indicates a pickup in March.

• Investment: Nonresidential structures decreased 21.7 percent, equipment and software increased 11.6 percent and real residential fixed investment decreased 4.1 percent.

• Government spending subtracted 1.09 percentage points in Q1 (unusual), and change in private inventories added 0.93 percentage points.

The following graph shows the rolling 4 quarter contribution to GDP from residential investment, equipment and software, and nonresidential structures. This is important to follow because residential investment tends to lead the economy, equipment and software is generally coincident, and nonresidential structure investment trails the economy.

For the following graph, red is residential, green is equipment and software, and blue is investment in non-residential structures. The usual pattern - both into and out of recessions is - red, green, blue.

Investment Contributions Residential Investment (RI) made a negative contribution to GDP in Q1 2011, and the four quarter rolling average is negative again following the slight boost from the tax credit early in 2010.

Equipment and software investment has made a significant positive contribution to GDP for seven straight quarters (it is coincident).

The contribution from nonresidential investment in structures was negative in Q1. Nonresidential investment in structures typically lags the recovery.

The key leading sector - residential investment - has lagged this recovery because of the huge overhang of existing inventory. Usually RI is a strong contributor to GDP growth and employment in the early stages of a recovery, but not this time - and this is a key reason why the recovery has been sluggish so far. However I expect residential investment will turn positive this year mostly from investment in multi-family structures and home improvement.