The government’s first revision of first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) figures showed that the inflation-adjusted trade deficit shrank slightly more than originally reported on a sequential basis, and therefore boosted growth by fractionally more (0.13 percentage points rather than 0.07 percentage points). Nonetheless, the quarter-to-quarter positive swing in trade’s growth role (1.95 percentage points) now matches the biggest such change since the fourth quarter of 2010. The $599.9 billion quarterly real trade still represented the second biggest quarterly total since the $623.7 billion run up in the first quarter of 2008, just after the last recession officially began.
The new GDP figures show all of the major categories of after-inflation exports and imports still at new quarterly records, with the former generally fractionally higher and the latter generally fractionally lower. (Services exports were the exception.) The cumulative growth drag created by the real trade deficit’s increase during the current, historically feeble economic recovery shrank from 9.70 percent in the advance first quarter GDP read to 9.32 percent. Separate Census data show that the Made in Washington trade drag declined in the first quarter as well, but at 21.26 percent still represented nearly $533 billion in foregone real output.
Here are the trade highlights from this morning’s GDP report:
>The government’s second look at first quarter U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) showed that a slightly smaller real trade deficit than previously reported made a slightly larger contribution to inflation-adjusted growth.
>The new $599.99 billion annualized trade deficit number (down from the previously reported $605 billion) means that the shortfall shrank sequentially by 0.84 percent. As a result, trade’s absolute boost to growth (0.13 percentage points) was larger than the 0.07 percentage point figure reported last month.
>Moreover, the quarterly positive swing in the trade’s growth role from the fourth quarter of last year (when it subtracted 1.82 percentage points) grew to 1.95 percentage points – matching the biggest such total since the fourth quarter of 2010.
>At the same time, this quarterly trade gap was still the second largest since the $623.7 billion deficit registered in the first quarter of 2008, as the economy was just starting to succumb to the Great Recession.
>All categories of exports and imports tracked in the real GDP figures remained at new quarterly records in the first quarter, with all export totals except for services exports rising modestly, and all import totals falling modestly.
>Combined annualized goods and services exports in the first quarter were upgraded from $2.1675 trillion to $2.168 trillion – 1.43 percent higher than the fourth quarter’s level. The previous quarterly all-time high had been $2.1620 trillion annualized, set in the third quarter of last year.
>The goods export total was revised up from $1.4828 trillion to 1.4832 trillion – an increase of 2.04 percent over the fourth quarter. The previous record of $1.4792 trillion was also set in third quarter, 2016.
>Services exports remained unchanged at $685.8 billion annualized – and still topped the previous record of $684 billion record set in the first quarter of 2015.
>Total annualized first quarter imports were pegged at $2.7679 trillion – a bit lower than the previously reported $2.7703 trillion level, and 0.93 percent higher than the fourth quarter total. The new first quarter level still bested the previous $2.7424 billion record of that fourth quarter.
>Goods imports also were revised down fractionally, from $2.2797 trillion to $2.2782 trillion. That still represented a 1.03 percent increase over the fourth quarter level of $2.2549 trillion – the previous record.
>Services imports were reported last month at their eighth straight quarterly record., and they remained so in today’ report. But the previous $488.3 billion figure was revised down to $487.4 billion – a 0.47 percent sequential increase.
>According to these new GDP figures, the trade drag on the current, historically weak, economic recovery was smaller in the first quarter than previously estimated. The 9.70 percent figure was revised down to 9.32 percent – somewhat lower than the fourth quarter’s 9.71 percent. The new data mean that the economy has grown by $233.6 billion less in real terms during the recovery due to the increase in the real trade deficit.
>The trade drag created by the Made in Washington deficit is still more than twice as great, according to the GDP data and separate figures compiled by the Census Bureau. But it, too, has been slightly downgraded.
>This deficit strips out U.S. trade in oil (which is rarely the subject of trade deals or related policy decisions) and services (where liberalization has made relatively little progress). The growth of the remaining real non-oil goods deficit during the current recovery has slowed cumulative inflation adjusted growth by fully 21.26 percent.
>That’s down from the 21.67 percent growth loss that could be calculated from the previous GDP report, but it will means that the growth of this policy-influenced trade deficit has cost the U.S. economy $532.9 billion in cumulative inflation-adjusted production during this recovery.