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First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: The U.S. economy took such a huge hit during the second quarter of this year that the 36.87 percent nosedive in output sequentially at an annualized rate reported this morning by the Commerce Departent was actually slightly good news. Specifically, it represented an improvement over the plunge estimated in last month’s advance read on the gross domestic product (GDP) – nearly 38 percent. Talk about a low bar!

(Just FYI, the above figures differ from what the Commerce Department itself has calculated and the media have reported. Mine are based on taking the second quarter annualized figure (in this case) of $17.2822 trillion in inflation-adjusted terms (the most closely watched of the GDP statistics) subtracting it from the first quarter figure ($19.0108 trillion), and then multiplying by four.)

Now for the less obvious: The GDP figures, which of course are historically awful because of the CCP Virus-induced shutdowns (and therefore maybe not very good measures of the economy’s underlying condition) keep producing noteworthy surprises on the trade front.

Specifically, last month’s initial Commerce Department GDP release pegged the inflation-adjusted trade deficit at $780.7 billion at an annual rate. This morning’s number was down to $760.9 billion. That’s a big revision, and it means that since the first quarter, the gap has narrowed not by the 3.71 percent estimated last month, but 13.76 percent – more than 3.7 times more! This shortfall, moreover, was the lowest since the second quarter of 2016’s $745.2 billion.

Interestingly, the main source of the improvement was on the goods side. Service sectors – which have suffered the most during the pandemic period because so many depend on human contact of some kind or other – saw their trade results barely budge from the previous estimates for the second quarter.

At the same time, let’s not overlook one stunning services trade-related result. As was the case with that previous second quarter services import figure of $372.7 billion annualized, this morning’s $372.8 billion result was the lowest in more than fourteen years, when the fourth quarter 2005 services import figure came in at $368.4 billion.

As for the rest of the components of inflation-adjusted U.S. trade flows (all annualized):

Second quarter U.S. total exports were revised up 0.60 percent, from $1.9316 trillion to $1.9431 trillion. That quarterly total was still the lowest since the first quarter of 2010 ($1.9026 trillion) – early in the recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09.

Second 2Q total imports were revised down 0.30 percent, from $2.7123 trillion to $2.7040 trillion – the lowest since the third quarter of 2011 ($2.6970 trillion).

Second quarter goods exports were revised up 0.99 percent, from $1.3386 trillion to $1.3519 trillion. But that’s also the lowest such number since the first quarter of 2010 – which was exactly the same!

Second quarter goods imports of $2.3575 trillion represented a 0.37 percent upward revision from the previously reported $2.3487 trillion. That’s the smallest such figure since the second quarter of 2013 ($2.3381 trillion).

Second quarter services exports are now judged to have been $591.5 billion – just 0.12 percent lower than the first estimate of $592.2 billion – and the worst such total since the first quarter of 2010’s $586.8 billion.

And finally, that new second quarter services imports figure of $372.8 billion is virtually unchanged from the previous estimate of $327.7 billion. But again – it’s a nearly 15-year low.

For the time being, there’s one more second quarter GDP estimate to come from the Commerce Department – about a month from now. Then we’ll be getting into the reports for the third quarter, which is widely thought to have witnessed a strong but far from complete rebound in the economy. I for one can’t wait to see if those numbers produce any comparable trade surprises – and if so, what kind.