The government’s second figures for fourth quarter and full-year 2016 gross domestic product (GDP) confirmed the dismal trade results reported in last month’s initial reading. The real annualized trade deficit still recorded its biggest relatively quarterly jump (14.82 percent) since the second quarter of 2010 (14.90 percent). Consequently, as reported in the advance release, the cumulative trade drag on the current weak U.S. economic recovery shot up from 6.57 percent to 10.13 percent.
Trade’s absolute bite from annualized quarterly real growth remained the biggest (1.70 percentage points from 1.84 percent annualized growth) since the second quarter of 2010 (1.77 percentage points from 3.86 percent annualized growth) – though it dipped in absolute terms. On an annual basis, though, the trade drag on constant-dollar American growth still came in much lower than in 2015 – falling from 0.71 percentage points out of a 2.60 percent improvement o 0.12 percentage points out of a 1.60 percent uptick.
The fourth quarter price-adjusted annualized trade deficit stayed at $599.6 billion – still the biggest since the $623.7 billion mark of the first quarter of 2008. The annual real trade shortfall of $561.6 billion was unrevised, too, and remained the greatest since 2007’s $712.6 billion. Both previous peaks were reached as the Great Recession was breaking out.
The new GDP figures revealed new real export records for services ($685.5 billion annualized) on a quarterly basis and for combined goods and services exports ($2.1288 trillion) on an annual basis. Both results were upgraded fractionally. New records also remained in place for quarterly overall imports ($2.7395 trillion annualized – a slight upward revision), and quarterly goods imports ($2.2533 trillion annualized – a small downgrade). The same was true for annual overall imports (revised up slightly to $2.6904 trillion), goods imports (downgraded fractionally to $2.2097 trillion), and services imports (upgraded to $478.3 billion).
Here are the trade highlights from this morning’s GDP report:
>On the trade front, no news was anything but good news in the U.S. government’s second reading for fourth quarter and full-year 2016 inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) growth. The new release confirmed last month’s advance report showing that a major jump in the quarterly real trade deficit greatly boosted trade’s drag on the nation’s already feeble economic recovery.
>The revised GDP numbers revealed that the inflation-adjusted trade deficit for goods and services for the fourth quarter stayed at $599.6 billion at an annual rate, which still represented a 14.82 percent on quarter surge, from $522.2 billion. Moreover, this largest sequential percentage increase since the second quarter of 2010 (14.90 percent) kept the trade bite from quarterly growth (1.70 percentage points out of a 1.84 percent annualized real GDP increase) as the deepest since that second quarter of 2010 (1.77 percentage points out of 3.86 percent annualized growth). And since the overall after-inflation sequential GDP improvement was revised down slightly from 1.86 percent, the trade drag worsened slightly.
>In consequence, the new figures showed that the trade subtraction from cumulative real GDP growth during this historically feeble American economic recovery still rose from 6.57 percent to 10.13 percent sequentially.
>The rise in the Made in Washington U.S. trade deficit has slashed recovery-era growth to a much greater extent. This gauge measures trade flows heavily influenced by U.S. trade policies – of goods excluding oil (which doesn’t tend to come up in trade negotiations and where American net imports have dropped dramatically) and services (where trade liberalization remains limited).
>The latest full-year 2016 figures show that this Made in Washington shortfall has cut cumulative inflation-adjusted growth during the recovery by 18.86 percent, or $461.78 billion.
>On an annual basis, however, the GDP report left unrevised a drop in the trade drag on growth – from 0.71 percentage points from 2.60 percent inflation-adjusted growth in 2015 to 0.12 points out of a 1.60 percent real GDP increase last year.
>The real trade deficit also grew in 2016 at a much slower pace (four percent) than in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, at the same $561.6 billion level, it remained the greatest annual price-adjusted trade gap since 2007 ($712.6 billion).
>The new GDP report confirmed its predecessor’s finding that the real trade deficit also rose proportionately in the fourth quarter of 2016 – to its highest share of after-inflation GDP (3.57 percent) since the fourth quarter of 2008 (3.64 percent).
>Similarly, today’s GDP numbers reiterated the rise in the full-year 2016 constant-dollar trade gap as a share of real GDP to its highest level (3.37 percent) since 2008 (3.76 percent).
>As a result, the real trade deficit’s absolute sequential increase in the fourth quarter of 2016 ($77.4 billion) stayed the strongest such rise since these figures began being tabulated by the Commerce Department in 1999.
>The new GDP figures slightly upgraded fourth quarter services exports – from a record $685.4 billion to $685.5 billion. The sequential rate of increase inched up from 0.22 percent to 0.23 percent.
>The annual combined goods and services exports figure was upgraded a bit, too – from $2.1284 trillion (another all-time high) to $2.1288 trillion. And the 2016 rate of increase came in at 0.39 percent, rather than 0.37 percent.
>Yet the slew of import records reported in the advance GDP estimate rose fractionally as well.
>In the fourth quarter, overall imports are now estimated to have hit $2.7395 trillion annualized, as opposed to $2.7380 trillion. That 2.06 percent increase slightly exceeds the two percent figure reported previously.
>As for fourth quarter price-adjusted goods imports, where the advance report pegged them at a record $2.2548 trillion annualized (up 2.62 percent), the revised figures are $2.2533 trillion (still an all-time high) and 2.55 percent, respectively.
>During full-year 2016, overall real imports were initially reported at $2.6901 trillion – up 1.11 percent on year. Both numbers were revised slightly higher – to $2.6904 trillion and 1.12 percent, respectively.
>Real goods imports numbers for full-year 2016, however, were downgraded a bit. Originally reported at $2.2101 trillion, or up 0.73 percent over 2015 levels, they are now judged to have been $2.2097 trillion – reflecting a 0.71 percent rise.
>Upward revisions were more substantial for inflation-adjusted services imports in 2016. Rather than rising 2.84 percent on year, to $477.6 billion, they are now estimated to have grown by 2.99 percent, to a new record $478.3 billion.