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The wide spread in first quarter GDP growth "trackers"--which at this point are more model and assumption than actual data--is indicative of the uncertainty surrounding the international trade and inventory components.
OPEC's decision at the weekend to turn the oil market into a free-for-all means that the rebound in headline inflation over the next few months will be less dramatic than we had been expecting. Falling retail gas prices look set to subtract 0.2% from the headline index in both November and December, and by a further 0.1% in January. These declines are much smaller than in the same three months a year ago, so the headline rate will still rise sharply, to about 1.3% by January from 0.2% in October, but it won't approach 2% until the end of next year or early 2017,
Total real inventories rose at a $48.7B annualized rate in the fourth quarter, contributing 1.0 percentage points to headline GDP growth. Wholesale durable goods accounted for $34B of the aggregate increase, following startling 1.0% month-to-month nominal increases in both November and December. The November jump was lead by a 3.2% leap in the auto sector, but inventories rose sharply across a broad and diverse range of other durables, including lumber, professional equipment, electricals and miscellaneous.
The biggest single surprise in the second quarter GDP report was the unexpected $28B real-terms drop in inventories.
We were nervous ahead of the GDP numbers on Friday, wondering if our forecast of a 1.5 percentage point hit from foreign trade was too aggressive. In the event, though, the trade hit was a huge 1.7pp, so domestic demand rose at a 3.5% pace.
To answer the question: Yes, growth could hit 5% in the second quarter.
A modest dip in gasoline prices will hold down the October CPI, due today, but investors' attention will be on the core, after five undershoots to consensus in the past six months.
The chance of a self-inflicted, unnecessary weakening in the economy this year, and perhaps even a recession, has increased markedly in the wake of the president's announcement on Friday that tariffs will be applied to all imports from Mexico, from June 10.
Today's producer price report for March likely will show a further increase in core goods inflation, which already has risen to 2.0% in February, from 0.2% in the same month last year. The acceleration in the U.S. PPI follows the even more dramatic surge in China's PPI for manufactured goods, which jumped to 6.6% year-over-year in February, from minus 4.9% a year ago. China's PPI is much more sensitive to commodity prices than the U.S. series, so there's very little chance that core U.S. PPI goods inflation will rise to anything like this rate.
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