Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The first estimate of fourth quarter and full-year 2017 U.S. real growth came out Friday, and it completely overwhelmed me for two reasons. The first, and least important, was that I was traveling, so completing my analysis the same day wasn’t possible. The second, and most important, was that it was shot through with trade-related records and multi-year highs – mostly of the kind that hold back the American economy. So today I’ll be presenting an abbreviated version of my usual report, focusing almost entirely on those milestones.

>The new gross domestic product (GDP) figures showed that a sequential surge in the inflation-adjusted annualized trade deficit during the year’s last three months prevented the U.S. economy from achieving a current recovery first: three straight quarters or more of three percent or more annualized growth. In fact, the economy hasn’t seen such a period since late 2004-early 2005.

> That jump in the trade deficit jump cut 1.13 percentage points from the fourth quarter’s disappointing 2.53 percent annualized growth – the biggest such absolute and relative subtraction since the fourth quarter of 2016 (1.61 percentage points from 1.75 percent annualized growth). In fact, trade undermined after-inflation growth in the fourth quarter of 2017 for the first time since that end-of-2016 quarter.

>At the same time, on an annual basis, the trade drag on real GDP fell in 2017 to 0.18 percentage points of 2.25 percent inflation-adjusted growth from 2016’s 0.23 percentage points of 1.49 percent growth. In addition, the 2017 figure was the smallest annual growth drag since the 0.16 percentage point and 2.57 percent numbers of 2014.

>The fourth quarter real annualized trade deficit of $652.5 billion was the highest since the $703.2 billion reached during the third quarter of 2007 – just before the Great Recession’s onset. As a share of real GDP, it hit is highest level (3.78 percent) since the first quarter of 2008 (4.19 percent) – in the recession’s first months.

>For the full year, the trade shortfall’s share of real GDP reached its highest level in 2017 (3.64 percent) since 2008 (3.76 percent).

>New records were set for real total exports and goods exports on a quarterly basis ($2.2295 trillion and $1.5527 trillion on an annual basis, respectively) and for all major import categories ($2.8128 trillion for total imports, $2.3144 trillion for goods imports, and $496.3 billion for services imports – all at annual rates).

>Some rates of change for exports and imports were noteworthy as well. On a quarterly basis, the total imports increase of 13.2 percent annualized was the biggest since the 14.10 percent in the third quarter of 2010. The goods import rise of 15.84 percent annualized was the biggest since the 22.05 percent of the second quarter of 2010.

>For the full year, 2017’s real total exports improvement of 3.36 percent was the best such performance since 2014’s 4.28 percent rise, while the after-inflation goods export increase of 4.54 percent was the biggest advance since 2011’s 6.85 percent.

>On the import side, the 3.94 percent annual constant dollar rise in 2017 was the biggest for goods and services combined since 2014’s 4.96 percent. For goods, 2017’s 4.25 percent import increase in price-adjusted terms was the biggest since 2015’s 5.16 percent.

>The real trade deficit’s sequential fourth quarter jump boosted the trade drag on the current economic recovery from 8.23 percent to 9.82 percent – translating into $286.3 billion in lost constant dollar growth since the expansion began in the middle of 2009.

>The far greater growth drag of the increase in the Made in Washington trade deficit – which focuses on the non-oil goods trade flows most heavily influenced by trade agreements and other trade policies – won’t be known until the December monthly trade data come out early next month. But as of the third quarter, it had reduced cumulative recovery growth by 16.36 percent, or just under $460 billion in price-adjusted terms.

 

Advertisements