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Q1 GDP Advance Estimate at 0.5%, Worse Than Mainstream Forecasts

April 28, 2016

by Doug Short

The Advance Estimate for Q1 GDP, to one decimal, came in at 0.5 percent, down from the 1.4 percent in Q4 of 2015. Today's number was worse than most mainstream estimates, with Investing.com forecasting 0.7 percent and the Briefing.com consensus at 0.9 percent. The latest Atlanta Fed GDPNow forecast (on April 27) was 0.6 percent.

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

Real gross domestic product -- the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes -- increased at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 1.4 percent.

The Bureau emphasized that the first-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 3 and "Comparisons of Revisions to GDP" on page 4). The "second" estimate for the first quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on May 27, 2016.

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

The deceleration in real GDP in the first quarter reflected a larger decrease in nonresidential fixed investment, a deceleration in PCE, a downturn in federal government spending, an upturn in imports, and larger decreases in private inventory investment and in exports that were partly offset by an upturn in state and local government spending and an acceleration in residential fixed investment. [Full Release]

Here is a look at Quarterly GDP since Q2 1947. Prior to 1947, GDP was calculated annually. To be more precise, the chart shows is the annualized percent change from the preceding quarter in Real (inflation-adjusted) Gross Domestic Product. We've also included recessions, which are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Also illustrated are the 3.23% average (arithmetic mean) and the 10-year moving average, currently at 1.30 percent.

Quarterly GDP since 1947

Note: The headline 0.5% real compounded rate of change is 0.54% at two decimal places.

Here is a log-scale chart of real GDP with an exponential regression, which helps us understand growth cycles since the 1947 inception of quarterly GDP. The latest number puts us 15.0% below trend, the largest negative spread in the history of this series.

with a Regression

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

Real GDP Year-over-Year

In summary, the Q1 GDP Advance Estimate of 0.5 percent was worse than most mainstream estimates and below the 1.4 percent of Q4 of 2015.

Other GDP updates:

Real GDP Per Capita

Visualizing GDP