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Look Carefully at the Price Index
The GDP number came out yesterday; 3/5% did slightly beat the consensus of 3.3%, but remember, for a while the Atlanta Fed was looking for a print in the 4’s. But the New York Fed was at 2.2%, so the print was much higher than what the New York Fed was looking for. But if you look at the internals, the biggest reason that we got 3.5% was because of the price index – the “deflator”. Last quarter, when we had 4.2%, the government said that prices rose at an annualized rate of 3%. But in Q3, they said that prices only rose at an annualized rate of 1.7%.
Calling B.S. on that Number
Now I call B.S. on that number. I don’t think we had that significant a slowdown in the annualized rate of inflation between the second quarter of the year and the third quarter of the year. If the 3% inflation rate had held steady, then Q2 GDP would have been just 2.2%. So, obviously not nearly as good a headline as 3.5%. We’ll see if they revise this thing down after the election. Obviously the Republicans can still campaign on 3.5% even if it turns out that 3.5% was an over-estimate.
Largest Trade Deficit in History
I think new data is going to come out – particularly on trade. Donald Trump is out there again bragging about how we’re winning the trade war. I talked about that. That was the topic of my last podcast because we just printed the worse Merchandise Trade Deficit on a monthly basis in U.S. history.
Trade Deficit Amounted to the Largest Subtraction from GDP in 33 Years
The trade deficit was so large in the third quarter that it subtracted 1.78 percentage points from the GDP number. That is the largest subtraction from GDP that we have had from trade during a quarter in 33 years. What happens, when you calculate GDP, you take government spending, you take consumer spending and business spending and then you add in your trade surplus or you subtract out your trade deficit. Now, since we never have a trade surplus, trade is always a net subtraction from the GDP.