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The final (for now) estimate of third quarter real growth, showed that the slight downward revision in the previously reported rate of expansion stemmed partly from a marginally worse trade performance. The combined goods and services shortfall was upgraded from $594.4 billion at an annual rate to $597.5 billion. As a result, trade’s contribution to third quarter expansion was downgraded from a 0.43 percentage point addition to 3.26 percent annualized after inflation growth to a 0.36 percentage point contribution to a 3.12 percent annualized real GDP advance.

Even so, the result remained three straight quarters of constant dollar trade deficit shrinkage for the first time since a 2012-2013 stretch. The combined deficit still shrank on a quarterly basis by the greatest annualized amount (10.50 percent) since the 46.14 percent annualized plummet in the fourth quarter of 2013. And trade’s growth-fueling effects still continued into their third straight quarter – also for the first time since 2012-2013. The composition of quarterly inflation-adjusted trade deficit reduction remained encouraging as well, with the combination of exports improvement and import fall-offs showing that domestic producers were supplying more demand both at home and abroad simultaneously for the first time since the third quarter of 2014.

The biggest downgrades in the trade figures came in services trade – especially a sequential real export increase now judged to have been 2.52 percent at annual rates, not 3.17 percent. The new GDP figures showed constant dollar exports in all major categories remained at record levels, but overall quarterly export growth was revised down from 2.16 percent annualized to 2.07 percent annualized. The price-adjusted quarterly total import decrease was revised down from 1.07 percent at an annual rate to 0.69 percent, but still remained the biggest drop since the fourth quarter of 2012 (3.82 percent annualized).

Because quarterly after-inflation trade shortfall was revised up, the trade drag on the current economic recovery inched up, too – from 8.11 percent to 8.23 percent ($231.2 billion in lost real growth). It’s still down considerably from the second quarter’s 9.24 percent. Similarly, the trade drag of the Made in Washington deficit – which tracks flows heavily influenced by U.S. trade policy – grew from the previously reported 16.32 percent to 16.36 percent ($459.5 billion in lost real growth). That’s still down significantly from the 17.30 percent second quarter drag.

Here are the trade highlights from this morning’s report on the gross domestic product (GDP):

>The Commerce Department’s final (for now) read on third quarter inflation-adjusted economic growth showed that a slightly worse trade performance than previously reported helped slow the economy’s expansion marginally.

>The annualized growth rate fell from 3.26 percent to 3.12 percent in part because the quarter’s real annualized trade deficit was upgraded from a downwardly revised $594.4 billion to $597.5 billion.

>As a result, trade’s contribution to real growth was downgraded from 0.46 percentage points of that 3.26 percent annualized growth to 0.36 percentage points out of 3.12 percent annualized growth.

>All the same, the new results still showed that the after-inflation trade deficit has fallen sequentially for three straight quarters – for the first time since a period in 2012-13.

>They also still showed, therefore, that trade fueled growth on net for three straight quarters for the first time since that 2012-13 period.

>And this morning’s results also still showed that the constant dollar deficit fell sequentially in the third quarter by its fastest rate (10.50 percent) since the 46.14 percent plunge in the fourth quarter of 2014.

>The pattern of real trade deficit shrinkage also remained encouraging. As with the first and second reads for the third quarter, this third report showed that the gap narrowed both because exports grew and imports shrank. In other words, the United States was supplying increased demand both at home and abroad simultaneously – the first time it has achieved that objective since the third quarter of 2014. That’s a much better reason for trade deficit shrinkage than, say, weak growth or contraction that depresses imports.

>The weak spot in these final third quarter GDP and trade figures seems to be services. Originally judged to be growing at an annualized sequential rate of 4.04 percent, this figure has now been downgraded to 3.17 percent and now 2.52 percent.

>Yet the new annualized total of $686.6 billion after inflation remained a quarterly record.

>Real services imports performed somewhat better. But their annualized quarterly decrease was still judged to be smaller than reported last month – 2.73 percent instead of 2.97 percent (for a quarterly annualized total of $494.8 billion).

>Nonetheless, services imports still fell at the fastest quarterly annualized rate since their 7.59 percent annualized swoon in the first quarter of 2011.

>Although the third quarter’s annualized real growth rate for inflation-adjusted total exports was further downgraded from 2.16 percent to 2.07 percent (resulting in a $2.1924 trillion annualized figure) this figure stayed in quarterly record territory.

>Goods exports, however, performed somewhat better on a price-adjusted basis. Their real annualized sequential growth rate was upgraded again – from 1.63 percent to 1.84 percent. And the $1.5073 trillion figure was a new inflation-adjusted quarterly record.

>As with services imports, total and goods imports declined less on a quarterly basis.

>Total inflation-adjusted imports sank by 0.69 percent sequentially at an annual rate in the third quarter, according to the new figures, not the 1.07 percent previously reported. But this decrease was still the biggest since the 3.82 percent quarterly drop in the fourth quarter of 2012 – when real growth was a paltry 0.09 percent annualized.

>The new total real imports figure for the third quarter was $2.7900 trillion.

>The previous GDP report showed inflation-adjusted goods imports falling in the third quarter at a 0.65 percent sequential rate – the fastest since the 4.40 percent pace during that dreary fourth quarter of 2012.

>This morning, this decline was judged to be only 0.24 percent – only the fastest rate since the first quarter of 2016’s 0.47 percent.

>The new third quarter real goods import figure is $2.2929 trillion.

>Since the real trade deficit is now judged to be slightly higher than in the previous third quarter GDP reports, the new numbers also revealed that trade’s drag on the current economic recovery increased a bit.

>As of the second quarter, the inflation-adjusted trade deficit’s increase since the recovery began – in the middle of 2009 – had reduced cumulative growth by 9.24 percent.

>The initial third quarter read lowered this number to 8.18 percent, and the second to 8.11 percent. But today’s figures produce a greater 8.23 percent drag, representing $231.2 billion worth of lost growth.

>The growth-killing effects of the Made in Washington trade deficit have been considerably greater – and inched back up as well per the new third quarter data.

>This trade deficit and its growth drag can be calculated by removing constant dollar oil trade and services trade from trade figures – two areas where trade liberalization’s impact so far has been modest at best. What’s left are the U.S. trade flows most heavily affected by trade agreements and other Washington policy decisions.

>When the first read on third quarter GDP came out, third quarter figures for the Made in Washington deficit were not available, but the second quarter GDP report revealed a drag of 17.30 percent. As of the second read, it had fallen to 16.32 percent.

>Today’s report, however, pushed the drag back up to 16.36 percent, or $459.5 billion in real growth lost since the recovery began.

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