Home Business Q4 GDP drops to -0.1%

Q4 GDP drops to -0.1%

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Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — decreased at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 3.1 percent.

The Bureau emphasized that the fourth-quarter advance estimate released today is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency (see the box on page 4 and the “Comparisons of Revisions to GDP” on page 5). The “second” estimate for the fourth quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on February 28, 2013.

The decrease in real GDP in the fourth quarter primarily reflected negative contributions from private inventory investment, federal government spending, and exports that were partly offset by positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), nonresidential fixed investment, and residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

Most economists predicted that the economy slowed in Q4, but I don’t know that anyone expected a negative number.  Business Insider notes that the expectations were around 1.1% for Q4, which would have been a big drop in itself from Q3′s 3.1%.  However, they point to the contraction in federal spending as the main culprit:

Real federal government consumption expenditures and gross investment decreased 15.0 percent in the fourth quarter, in contrast to an increase of 9.5 percent in the third. National defense decreased 22.2 percent, in contrast to an increase of 12.9 percent. Nondefense increased 1.4 percent, compared with an increase of 3.0 percent. Real state and local government consumption expenditures and gross investment decreased 0.7 percent, in contrast to an increase of 0.3 percent.

Well, it’s true that government spending dropped in Q4, but it’s equally true that it spiked in Q3. That’s a decrease from the spike, which makes it a lot less dramatic when put in context. Exports took a beating, too, and that has nothing to do with government spending:

Real exports of goods and services decreased 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter, in contrast to an increase of 1.9 percent in the third. Real imports of goods and services decreased 3.2 percent, compared with a decrease of 0.6 percent.

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