Weak Q4 GDP Figure Belies True Strength in U.S. Economy

Richard Branch
Senior Economist

The advance estimate for fourth quarter GDP growth was 1.9%, slower than the consensus estimate of 2.2%. The report highlighted the growing dichotomy between the internal and external portions of the U.S. economy.

First the bad news. The trade deficit grew $77 billion dollars in the fourth quarter, sapping 1.7 percentage points from the overall GDP growth figure. Imports grew at an annualized pace of 8.3% vs. a decline of 4.3% for exports. The trade weighted U.S. Dollar Index is near a fifteen-year high, making imports to the U.S. cheap, and our exports more expensive when shipped abroad. Trade is a hot-button issue with the new Trump Administration; however, with weak global growth and a growing interest rate spread between the U.S. and major trading partners, the dollar is likely to face upward pressure through the year. This will make the Administration’s job difficult in turning around the trade deficit.

The good news is that consumers and businesses seem willing to spend. Consumer spending rose at an annualized 2.5% pace in the fourth quarter. While slower than the 3.0% growth posted in the third quarter, it is still a healthy rate of spending. Additionally, residential investment climbed an annualized 10.2% after falling in the previous two quarters. Nonresidential investment increased at an annualized pace of 2.4% in the quarter, due to higher spending on equipment and intellectual property, while investment in structures dropped 5.0%.

For the full year 2016, GDP growth was a disappointing 1.6% - the slowest annual pace of growth for the U.S. economy since 2011. Much of this was due to a very weak first half of the year. The U.S. economy strengthened in the second half of the year, and with the labor market continuing to improve it’s expected further strengthening will be present during 2017. President Trump’s pro-growth policies will certainly help in this effort; however, with the economy operating near full employment inflation concerns may cause the Federal Reserve to lift rates throughout the year. This would have a muting effect on the economic growth potential.

 

###

About Dodge Data & Analytics:


Dodge Data & Analytics is North America’s leading provider of commercial construction project data, market forecasting & analytics services and workflow integration solutions for the construction industry. Building product manufacturers, architects, engineers, contractors, and service providers leverage Dodge to identify and pursue unseen growth opportunities that help them grow their business. On a local, regional or national level, Dodge empowers its customers to better understand their markets, uncover key relationships, seize growth opportunities, and pursue specific sales opportunities with success. The company’s construction project information is the most comprehensive and verified in the industry.



As of April 15th, Dodge Data & Analytics and The Blue Book -- the largest, most active network in the U.S. commercial construction industry -- combined their businesses in a merger. The Blue Book Network delivers three unparalleled databases of companies, projects, and people.



Dodge and The Blue Book offer 10+ billion data elements and 14+ million project and document searches. Together, they provide a unified approach for new business generation, business planning, research, and marketing services users can leverage to find the best partners to complete projects and to engage with customers and prospects to promote projects, products, and services. To learn more, visit: construction.com and thebluebook.com.



Media Contact

:
Eric Becker | 104 West Partners | eric.becker@104west.com