Concerns Surrounding Weak Q2 Could Be Much Ado About Nothing

by: Eddy Elfenbein

Eddy Elfenbein submits: Here’s something that hasn’t got a lot of attention. Along with last week’s GDP report, the government revised all the GDP numbers going back to 2003.

It turns out that the government had overstated economic growth from 2003 to 2005, and slightly understated growth for the last few quarters. This wasn’t a small revision either. Last month’s report of first quarter GDP was $11.316 trillion (these are annualized numbers and adjusted for inflation). The new number is $11.404 trillion. That’s a reduction of nearly 0.8% or almost $90 billion. Even a small reduction is a huge amount when dealing with the U.S. economy.

While the initial GDP report of 2.5% has received a lot of attention, keep in mind that this number will be revised twice more, at the end of August and again at the end of September. These can be large adjustments too. The initial report of first-quarter GDP was 4.8% and it was later raised to 5.6% (and lowered again from 5.64% to 5.58%).

It could turn out that all the concerns of the “weak” second quarter was much ado about nothing. We place a lot of importance of what the Federal Reserve does, but it’s always good to remember that the Fed never has a clear vision of what’s truly happening. The Fed is trying to drive on a highway by only using a a rear-view mirror. And it’s a blurry mirror at that.

Here’s what the new GDP figures look like compared with the old ones:

Here's what the old and new quarterly growth numbers look like: