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2Q GDP Unchanged (someone please explain how)

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On September 29, 2005 @ 9:34 am In Economy | Comments Disabled

I already made it clear that I have strong reservations about the revised 1st Quarter GDP [1] (as well as other data [2]).

Today, we see 2Q GDP revisions came in unchanged from the original 3.3%.

Question: We know what aspects get measured, and what they were upon the initial and revised release. Let’s compare :

· U.S. exports rose by 10.7%, instead of
the earlier reported 13.2% increase.  (Source: Department of Commerce [3].

· 2Q Corporate profits (after taxes) rose 5.3% to $975 billion — a
smaller gain than the previously reported 6.9% rise. (DoC [3]).

· Businesses
inventories fell by $1.7 billion — far less than the originally
expected inventories raise of by $2.6 billion. (DoC [3]).

· "Personal consumption was somewhat stronger due
to higher spending on utilities, like electricity." (WSJ [4])

All these factors imply that GDP slowed significantly more than originally expected. Yet its unchanged, according to the Department of Commerce [3].

So by what accounting sleight of hand can inflation go up more than expected, while profits, exports, and business inventories go up less than expected?

Inflation. Remember, GDP tries to measure actual output, not price increases. The secret must be buried somewhere in the inflation data. If prices edged higher in the quarter than originally
believed — while data from exports, inventories and profits came in below prior expectations — how can GDP remain unchanged? 

I suspect its in one of the PCE price gauges — I’m tracking someone down in the Commerce Department to see if that also excludes food and energy in this measure.

If so, that would explain the steady GDP data in the face of all these other negative factors . . .


UPDATE I: September 29, 2005 10:29 am
Commerce tells me that GDP is not calculated ex-food and energy. Further, each individual component has its own price deflator.

Again, the emphasis is on measuring output, not price.

This requires more digging . . .

UPDATE II: September 30, 2005 6:29 am

I contacted John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics, He notes that "The small increase in the deflator was matched almost by a small upward revision to the nominal numbers.  The lack of real growth change was a function of rounding and an artifact of the way the real numbers are put together.  Real GDP components haven’t totaled to the aggregate numbers in years, hence the "residual" factor.  Try dividing the nominal GDP by the published deflator and you don’t come within $5 billion of the real number."

Interesting stuff.


GDP Growth in 2nd Quarter Is Unrevised at 3.3% [4]
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES, September 29, 2005 8:42 a.m.

News Release: Gross Domestic Product and Corporate Profit [3]  http://www.bea.gov/bea/newsrelarchive/2005/gdp205f.htm

“Final” Estimates of GDP [5]
THURSDAY, September 29, 2005

Article printed from The Big Picture: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog

URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2005/09/2q-gdp-unchanged-someone-please-explain-how/

URLs in this post:

[1] 1st Quarter GDP: http://www.ritholtz.com/blogStrange things are afoot with GDP http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2005/06/something_fishy.html

[2] data: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2005/08/juiced_data_1.html

[3] Department of Commerce: http://www.bea.gov/bea/newsrelarchive/2005/gdp205f.htm

[4] WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112799612439255633,00.html

[5] “Final” Estimates of GDP : http://www.bea.gov/bea/newsrelarchive/2005/gdp205f_fax.pdf

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