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The Q2 Surge: Is It Coming?




A month ago this website took a look at spending data from April and May – the first two months of the second quarter of 2014.  Was it good?  Um, no.  It was not … which is bad news for an economy supposedly on the cusp of a bounce back from a disappointing start to the year.

To recap: America’s gross domestic product shrunk at an annualized rate of 2.9 percent from January through March – which the vast majority of economists blamed exclusively on unseasonably cold temperatures (damn that global warming).  That’s the biggest non-recessionary drop in nearly seven decades … assuming we’re not in another recession already.

Anyway … the second quarter is supposed to mark a return to growth, and most analysts are predicting government’s initial GDP estimate to come in at around three percent.

We hope they’re right … growth is good.  No matter who gets the credit for it politically.

But given the data we’ve seen, a three percent annualized expansion is going to be very tough to achieve.  Economist Gary Shilling agrees – noting that “the herd is likely to be disappointed.”

“Consumer spending is 69 percent of GDP and it barely grew in the quarter,” Shilling writes on his website. “According to monthly data, real consumer spending fell 0.2 percent in April and 0.1 percent in May. June’s numbers aren’t released yet, but based on the correlation with retail sales, which are available for June, real consumer outlays rose just 0.1 percent. The jump in March from weak January and February gave consumer spending a higher starting point for the second quarter so we believe it rose 1.3 percent from the first quarter.”

Shilling also cites a decline in full-time employment, weak residential construction and home sale data and lower-than-expected exports as contributing factors to a disappointing print.

“Barring a big jump in inventories, the second quarter real GDP growth was probably a lot closer to 1 percent than 3 percent,” he concludes. “It could even be a negative number.”

Ouch …

Also it’s important to remember government’s initial GDP estimate is often wildly inaccurate (typically overstating economic activity).  For example the initial read on first quarter GDP was 0.1 percent growth .  That was later revised to a one percent drop – and then a 2.9 percent drop.