Today’s Links: The Grinding Gears of the Economy

January 30, 2008

The GDP numbers came out yesterday. For a breakdown, including the inflation component, go here. For the announcement from the BEA go here. The Fed also cut rates by 50bps. Here is the Journal’s story.

Real GDP growth


Barry Rithotlz- Q4 GDP: El Stinko!

• Consumption slowed to 2% from 2.8% in Q3; I suspect that only partly reflects real growth, meaning its partly inflated by price rises;

• U.S. exports continue to increase: Up 3.9% for the Q. Overseas trade added nearly half a point to Q4 GDP;

• Overall, the US economy grew 2.2% for the full year 2007 — the slowest since 2002 (1.6%)

• Inventory build, which drove the 4.9% Q3 data, was totally absent. It sliced 1.25% from GDP, after adding nearly a point in Q3.

• Inflation remains sticky: Price index for personal consumption expenditures rose by 3.9% in Q4 after a tepid 1.8% in Q3. This was the second highest PCE # since 2001

• Q4 business spending rose 7.5%. Investment in structures went 15.8% higher (which seems an awful lot to me); Equipment/software purchases rose by 3.8%.

• Biz spending decelerated in the fourth quarter from Q3′s hotter 9.3%.

Calculated Risk:

Since PCE came in at only 2.0%, clearly there was a sharp slowdown in December, and the growth from the last month of Q3 to last month of Q4 was probably negative – suggesting a recession might have started in December.

Edit: The ADP employment data is also available this morning, showing nonfarm private employment grew by 130,000 in January, and without a downward revision, those numbers are definitely not recessionary.

More on those ADP Numbers.

Bespoke delves into historical US GDP numbers.

Real Time Economics notes the weakness was highly influenced by inventory liquidation.

Manufacturers however are feeling pessimistic.

Calculated Risk breaks down the impact of non residential investment.

Dean Baker pretty much chalks up the consumer spending necessary to keep the GDP positive to spending on flat screen TV’s!

Stefan Karlsson says that trade adjusted real GDP turned negative, and thus the recession is underway.

Nouriel Roubini agrees.

The Fed Cuts!

Written before the cut was announced, Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism notes the Fed was already nearing negative real interest rates, and by some measures was already there.

James Hamilton gives us his research on when to expect the rate cuts to affect the housing and mortgage markets. Blog partner Menzie looks at how this is supposed to help and sees it as a positive, but a muted one.

Real Time Economics jumps in with several posts:

  • Greenspan doesn’t think central banks have the power to prevent a recession:
    • “Global forces can now override most anything that monetary and fiscal policy can do,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Die Ziet, published today. “Central banks have increasingly lost their capacity to influence” long term interest rates, he said. He added that the solution to bank vulnerability to exotic investments is to have “far higher capital.”
  • Personally I am on Greenspan’s side here. The Fed is just not as important or as powerful as people think.
  • The Federal Reserve’s lone dissenter about today’s rate cut was Richard Fisher.
  • Finally we have a roundup of reactions from various economists.
  • Worries about those pesky inflation expectations.
    • The Federal Reserve’s aggressive rate cuts in the last 10 days are having one unpleasant side effect: they’re boosting bond investors’ concern about inflation.

Investors reacted with enthusiasm, and then promptly collapsed. Actually, yesterdays charts were really bizarre. I expected the sell-off, but the market was strangely flat, then spikes up, then down.

Fed cut stock chart

Barry Ritholtz thought it was odd as well. Today was a different matter. A very strong day.


Credit default insurance has gotten much more expensive.

From Abnormal Returns I am copying this mini roundup on an issue that is finally getting substantial coverage these last few weeks:

More talk about the potential demise of the monoline bond insurers. (A Dash of Insight, Big Picture, FT Alphaville, naked capitalism)

Justin Wolfers has a question:

are those who are using the R-word suggesting that the “Great Moderation” is over, or simply that we are facing an especially unusual set of adverse business conditions? Or was there never any real change in the structure of the economy, and the last couple of decades have been simply a statistical fluke?

Who doesn’t own some of this stuff?

The company wrote off $275 million in investments in the quarter, which could rise to as much as $417 million, said Rebecca Goldsmith, a spokeswoman for the New York-based drugmaker …

“Some of the underlying collateral for the auction rate securities held by the company consists of sub-prime mortgages,” the company said today in a statement. If credit and capital markets continue to deteriorate, Bristol-Myers said, it “may incur additional impairments to its investment portfolio, which could negatively affect the company’s financial condition, cash flow and reported earnings.”

Fiscal Stimulus

Jason Furman vs Steven Landsburg on fiscal stimulus.

Alex Brill tells Greg Mankiw a secret behind the numbers.

Menzie Chinn gives her take.

Hat tip: As always, some of this is from Abnormal Returns. Even if not, go there.

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