Tags

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

This is a catch-up post on the CCP Virus-induced contraction of the U.S. economy growth, as well as a report on today’s latest update from the Commerce Department. The big news this morning: During the first quarter of this year, the economy’s sequential shrinkage for the first quarter of this year was pegged in this morning’s third, and final (for now) estimate at 5.09 percent at an annual rate in inflation-adjusted terms. That compares with the 4.87 percent drop in real output recorded in the first estimate, and a 5.15 percent decline estimated in the second estimate, which yours truly missed when it came out last month.

So things economic are looking slightly less terrible than previously thought – but still pretty terrible. In fact, this first quarter economic downturn was America’s most severe since the fourth quarter of 2008’s 8.66 percent – when the Great Recession spurred by the financial crisis was at its low point.

And there’s no doubt much worse to come in the second quarter figures, whose initial release will be a month from now (along with a regularly scheduled revision of all the data on the gross domestic product [GDP] and its changes going back to 2015). After all, the first quarter numbers only include the first month (March) during which the CCP Virus and its growth-killing effects began to be fully suffered.

Before delving into the trade-related details, a cautionary/explanatory note should be repeated: The phrases “at an annual rate” and “annualized” mean that an economic contraction of this historic scale didn’t take place al at once. Instead, they mean that in the economy contracted at a rate that would add up to the current 5.09 percent if the shrinkage continued at this pace for an entire year. This qualification is especially important because of the tremendous expected worsening of the slump in the second quarter.

Today’s GDP report revealed that the after-nflation annualized combined goods and services trade deficit during the first quarter was $815.5 billion. That’s a bit worse than the $816.0 billion figure reported last month but a bit better than the $817.4 billion calculated in the first estimate. And this so-far-final number represents a 9.34 percent decline from the $900.7 billion level reported for the fourth quarter of last year.

These results leave the drop-off the steepest since the 18.13 percent quarter-to-quarter nosedive during the second quarter of Great Recession-y 2009. And because the gap between these two results remains so big, it will be fascinating to see the numbers for the second quarter, when impact of mandated shutdown of much of the economy will first become apparent.

The quarterly decrease in total real exports for the first quarter is now judged to be 2.33 percent (non-annualized – as are the following numbers). This decline is worse than that estimated in the two previous first quarter GDP reports (2.24 percent and 2.25 percent, respectively). But as with the trade deficit figures, this slump pales with that suffered the last time constant dollar goods and services exports dropped significantly – the 8.08 percent crash dive during the first quarter of 2009, during the depths of that Great Recession.

On the import side, the 4.17 percent sequential price-adjusted fall-off reported this morning was bigger than either the 4.12 percent decrease previously judged and the 4.08 percent initially estimated. Again, however, that was the biggest such decline since a Great Recession result that was much greater – the 9.88 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2009.

The “final” first quarter figure for the inflation-adjusted goods deficit ($996.8 billion annualized) was 7.64 percent lower than the fourth quarter figure. But in services, the real surplus widened by 1.22 percent – even though the super-sector’s exports plummeted by nine percent. The first quarter annualized total of $714.9 billion annualized was the meagerest since the $706.2 billion level for the fourth quarter of 2013, and the rate of decline (much greater than the 0.49 percent in goods exports) was the fastest ever in a data series going back to 2002. In fact, the previous record was only 2.95 percent (during the Great Recession-y first quarter of 2009) – as with the export figures underscoring the outsized impact of the CCP virus’ impact on the travel industry.

Similar trends can be seen in after-inflation services imports. which sank by a record 8.06 percent in the quarter – much faster than the 3.19 percent fall in goods imports.