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GDP Grew at 5.7% Annualized Rate in 2009 Q4

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"GDP Grew at 5.7% Annualized Rate in 2009 Q4"

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The breakdown form the BEA:

Real personal consumption expenditures increased 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 2.8 percent in the third. Durable goods decreased 0.9 percent, in contrast to an increase of 20.4 percent. Nondurable goods increased 4.3 percent, compared with an increase of 1.5 percent. Services increased 1.7 percent, compared with an increase of 0.8 percent.

Real nonresidential fixed investment increased 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter, in contrast to a decrease of 5.9 percent in the third. Nonresidential structures decreased 15.4 percent, compared with a decrease of 18.4 percent. Equipment and software increased 13.3 percent, compared with an increase of 1.5 percent. Real residential fixed investment increased 5.7 percent, compared with an increase of 18.9 percent.

Real exports of goods and services increased 18.1 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 17.8 percent in the third. Real imports of goods and services increased 10.5 percent, compared with an increase of 21.3 percent.

Real federal government consumption expenditures and gross investment increased 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 8.0 percent in the third. National defense decreased 3.5 percent, in contrast to an increase of 8.4 percent. Nondefense increased 8.1 percent, compared with an increase of 7.0 percent. Real state and local government consumption expenditures and gross investment decreased 0.3 percent, compared with a decrease of 0.6 percent. The change in real private inventories added 3.39 percentage points to the fourth-quarter change in real GDP after adding 0.69 percentage point to the third-quarter change. Private businesses decreased inventories $33.5 billion in the fourth quarter, following decreases of $139.2 billion in the third quarter and $160.2 billion in the second.

5.7 percent is a very good number. If we could sustain something like that for a little while then we’d start to make progress on the labor market. But the worrying thing here is that so much of the growth represents inventory shifts. The recession left firms with large excess inventories, then we had a few quarters in which inventory draw-down impeded growth, and what we saw in Q4 was the end of that process. You could imagine a bit more good inventory news in the future as firms restock, but it’s bound to be a transient thing. Real personal consumption grew at a modest 2 percent and given how much debt everyone’s got you’re unlikely to see that reach a much higher figure. Government expenditures aren’t going to give us a boost in the future, thanks to the phase-out of ARRA and the “spending freeze,” unless we manage to start a war with Iran.

So we’re basically left hoping for growth to come from the export sector. Q4 saw imports grow and saw exports grow even faster, which is pretty much what we should be hoping for from trade.

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