Fleet Management

Economic Watch: GDP Wows, Durable Goods Decrease

December 23, 2014

By Evan Lockridge

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The value of the production of goods and services in the U.S. during the third quarter of the year increased at an annual rate of 5%, according to a third estimate from the U.S. Commerce Department.

The latest figure compares to a 4.6% annual increase in the gross domestic product during the second quarter and is the strongest showing since the third quarter of 2003. Last month the department estimated third quarter GDP growth was at an annual rate of 3.9%

The increase in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures, nonresidential fixed investment, federal government spending, exports, state and local government spending, and residential fixed investment, according to the Commerce Department. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

“In a word, wow!” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the investment firm Sterne Agee. “Per usual the economic data is sending mixed messages. Headline growth was stronger than expected as we headed into the final quarter. The revisions were reflective of a stronger consumer, and more business investment.””

In about a month department will release its first estimate on fourth quarter GDP activity.

Meantime, a separate Commerce Department report showed shipments of manufactured durable goods in November, down three of the last four months, decreased 0.4% from October. This followed a 0.1% October decrease from September.

Transportation equipment, down following two consecutive monthly increases, led the decline, falling 1.0%

New orders for manufactured durable goods in November fell 0.7% from October. This decrease, down three of the last four months, followed a 0.3% October increase from September

Excluding transportation, new orders declined 0.4%. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 0.1% Transportation equipment, also down three of the last four months, led the decrease, falling 1.2%.

According to Piegza, despite the very positive news about the GDP, the American economy isn't coming up all roses, “with the latest durable report suggesting businesses are reining in spending in the final months of the year after back-to-back quarters of impressive investment, and strong inventory building.”

She said from the Federal Reserve’s perspective, the data certainly supports the assessment that the U.S. economy continues to move along the path of recovery.

“Although, keep in mind, this report is unlikely to change the Fed's intended path of monetary policy. After all, coupled with weakness at the start of the year and an expectation of waning momentum in fourth quarter, the annual growth rate for 2014 is poised to be circa 2%, on par with activity levels seen over the past few years.”

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