US Gets A Boost From Consumer Spending

The world’s largest economy expanded more than previously forecast in the second quarter, boosted by gains in consumer spending and construction that may help the U.S. withstand a global slowdown.

Gross domestic product rose at a 3.9 percent annualized rate, compared with a prior estimate of 3.7 percent, Commerce Department figures showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of 76 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 3.7 percent gain.

Strong hiring, cheaper gasoline and higher home prices will probably sustain household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy. That helps bolster Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s view that the U.S. will overcome any fallout from cooling overseas markets and swings in global financial and commodity markets.

“Declining energy prices have been a big support, and that was a big windfall for consumers,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, who correctly projected the second-quarter expansion. “We’ve been growing above trend, and we think that’ll probably continue for at least the third and fourth quarters.”

Economists’ forecasts for GDP, the value of all goods and services produced, ranged from 2.7 percent to 4.1 percent.

Business Investment

The upward revision was driven mainly by a bigger pickup in consumer spending and business investment in commercial and residential construction.

The economy rebounded last quarter after growing at a 0.6 percent pace from January through March amid harsh winter weather, a labor dispute at West Coast ports and a pullback in energy-industry investment after the plunge in oil prices.

The latest estimate is the third for the quarter and the reading won’t be updated again until annual revisions are issued in July of 2016.

Household consumption was revised to a 3.6 percent gain compared with an initial estimate of 3.1 percent, and followed a 1.8 percent advance from January through March. The Bloomberg survey median called for a second-quarter advance of 3.2 percent.

A strong job market and cheap gasoline are sustaining the momentum in spending this quarter, helping to boost housing and autos. Industry data showed sales of cars and light trucks climbed in August to the highest level in a decade.

Offices, Factories

Among other details, business investment climbed at a 5.2 percent annualized pace, compared with a prior estimate of 4.1 percent. Investment in nonresidential structures, including office buildings and factories, rose 6.2 percent, the most in more than a year.

Residential construction increased at a 9.3 percent rate, up from a previous estimate of 7.8 percent.
Corporate spending on equipment and software eked out a tiny gain last quarter, and recent data indicate it could pick up this quarter.

Last quarter’s growth reading was at odds with data on earnings. Gross domestic income, which reflects all the money earned by consumers, businesses and government agencies climbed at a 0.7 percent annualized rate. It climbed 0.4 percent in the first quarter, marking the weakest back-to-back gains since mid-2012.

Although GDP and GDI should theoretically match, they can diverge in the short run because they are derived from different sources. For that reason, the government began issuing a new measure tracking the average of the two, which showed a 2.3 percent gain after a 0.5 percent advance in the first three months of the year.

Government Spending

Another bright spot last quarter was government spending, which climbed at a 2.6 percent pace, led by the biggest gain in state and local agency outlays since 2001.

The biggest obstacle for the economy this quarter is the need to reduce bloated inventories. Stockpiles in the first two quarters of the year showed the biggest back-to-back gain since records began in 1947.

The need to cut stocks is the main reason economists project growth will slow this quarter. GDP is forecast to expand at a 2.4 percent rate, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg from Sept. 4 to Sept. 9.

Fed Chair Yellen said Thursday that she is ready to raise interest rates this year and intends to let the labor market run hot for a time to heal the lingering scars of the worst recession since the Great Depression. She also said officials are confident the economy will keep expanding.

Policy makers are “monitoring developments abroad, but we do not currently anticipate that the effects of these recent developments on the U.S. economy will prove to be large enough to have a significant effect on the path for policy,” she said in a speech in Amherst, Massachusetts.


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Dean Popplewell

Dean Popplewell

Vice-President of Market Analysis at MarketPulse
Dean Popplewell has nearly two decades of experience trading currencies and fixed income instruments. He has a deep understanding of market fundamentals and the impact of global events on capital markets. He is respected among professional traders for his skilled analysis and career history as global head of trading for firms such as Scotia Capital and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since joining OANDA in 2006, Dean has played an instrumental role in driving awareness of the forex market as an emerging asset class for retail investors, as well as providing expert counsel to a number of internal teams on how to best serve clients and industry stakeholders.
Dean Popplewell