Q3 GDP Third Estimate: Another Upward Revision To 3.5%

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By Doug Short

The Third Estimate for Q3 GDP, to one decimal, came in at 3.5% (3.52% to two decimal places), an upward revision from the 3.2% second estimate and a substantial increase over the 1.4% Third Estimate of Q2 GDP. The latest number exceeded mainstream estimates. Investing.com had a consensus of 3.3%.

Here is the slightly abbreviated opening text from the Bureau of Economic Analysis news release:

Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2016, according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 1.4 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "second" estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was 3.2 percent. With this third estimate for the third quarter, nonresidential fixed investment, personal consumption expenditures (PCE), and state and local government spending increased more than previously estimated, but the general picture of economic growth remains the same (see "Updates to GDP" on page 2).

The increase in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from PCE, exports, private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, and federal government spending that were partly offset by negative contributions from residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The acceleration in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected an upturn in private inventory investment, an acceleration in exports, a smaller decrease in state and local government spending, an upturn in federal government spending, and a smaller decrease in residential investment, that were partly offset by a smaller increase in PCE and an acceleration in imports. [Full Release]

Here is a look at Quarterly GDP since Q2 1947. Prior to 1947, GDP was calculated annually. To be more precise, the chart shows the annualized% change from the preceding quarter in Real (inflation-adjusted) Gross Domestic Product. We've also included recessions, which are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Also illustrated are the 3.23% average (arithmetic mean) and the 10-year moving average, currently at 1.40%.

Here is a log-scale chart of real GDP with an exponential regression, which helps us understand growth cycles since the 1947 inception of quarterly GDP. The latest number puts us 14.8% below trend, the largest negative spread in the history of this series.

A particularly telling representation of slowing growth in the US economy is the year-over-year rate of change. The average rate at the start of recessions is 3.35%. Ten of the eleven recessions over this timeframe have begun at a higher level of real YoY GDP.

In summary, the Q3 GDP Third Estimate of 3.5% exceeded expectations and helps to justify the Fed's December rate hike.

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