Q3 GDP Second Estimate at 3.9% Beats Economists' Expectations

November 24, 2014

by Doug Short

The Second Estimate for Q3 GDP, to one decimal, came in at 3.9 percent, an increase from the Advance Estimate of 3.5 percent. Today's number beat mainstream economists' estimates, which were for a fractional decrease. For example, Investing.com had a forecast of 3.3 percent.

Here is an excerpt from the Bureau of Economic Analysis news release:

Real gross domestic product -- the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes -- increased at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in the third quarter of 2014, according to the "second" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 4.6 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "advance" estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 3.5 percent. With the second estimate for the third quarter, private inventory investment decreased less than previously estimated, and both personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and nonresidential fixed investment increased more. In contrast, exports increased less than previously estimated (see "Revisions" on page 3).

The increase in real GDP in the third quarter reflected positive contributions from PCE, nonresidential fixed investment, federal government spending, exports, residential fixed investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by a negative contribution from private inventory investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

The deceleration in the percent change in real GDP reflected a downturn in private inventory investment and decelerations in exports, in nonresidential fixed investment, in state and local government spending, in PCE, and in residential fixed investment that were partly offset by a downturn in imports and an upturn in federal government spending.

The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, increased 1.4 percent in the third quarter, 0.1 percentage point more than in the advance estimate; this index increased 2.0 percent in the second quarter. Excluding food and energy prices, the price index for gross domestic purchases increased 1.6 percent in the third quarter, compared with an increase of 1.7 percent in the second. [Full Release]

Here is a look at GDP since Q2 1947 together with the real (inflation-adjusted) S&P Composite. The start date is when the BEA began reporting GDP on a quarterly basis. Prior to 1947, GDP was reported annually. To be more precise, what the lower half of the chart shows is the percent change from the preceding period in Real (inflation-adjusted) Gross Domestic Product. I've also included recessions, which are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

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Here is a close-up of GDP alone with a line to illustrate the 3.3 average (arithmetic mean) for the quarterly series since the 1947. I've also plotted the 10-year moving average, currently at 1.6 percent.

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Here is the same chart with a linear regression that illustrates the gradual decline in GDP over this timeframe.

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A particularly telling representation of slowing growth in the US economy is the year-over-year rate of change.

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And for a bit of political trivia, here is a look at GDP by party in control of the White House and Congress.

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In summary, the Q3 GDP Second Estimate of 3.9 percent beat the forecast of most mainstream economists and continutes to reinforce the prevailing view that the Q1 -2.1 percent GDP contraction was a weather-related fluke.

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