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Second Quarter GDP Growth Expected to Post a Substantial Improvement

The government’s “advance” release of second-quarter GDP growth for the US is widely expected to post a substantial improvement over the subdued rise in Q1, based on several estimates compiled by The Capital Spectator.

 

By James Picerno

 

The debate is whether the Q2 report will mark a peak or a sign that a stronger macro trend will prevail.

For now, there’s broad agreement that the Q2 data that’s scheduled for release tomorrow (Friday, July 27) will reflect a substantially stronger pace of economic output over the first three months of the year. The White House is certainly upbeat. “You’re going to get a GDP number on Friday that’s going to be a very impressive number,” Larry Kudlow, the White House economic adviser, told CBS This Morning earlier today. “Some people are in the 4 to 5 percent zone.”

By contrast, The Capital Spectator’s current median projection (based on several sources) calls for a 3.4% increase in Q2 GDP (seasonally adjusted annual rate). The gain represents a solid improvement over the 2.0% rise in Q1.

The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model has the highest estimate for Q2 for the sources compiled in the chart below:  4.5% – a projection that’s in line with Kudlow’s comments. But some analysts worry that tomorrow’s update will be a high point that fades in the quarters ahead.

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“Enjoy the Q2 GDP number, which may be the last best print for a while,” wroteAndrew Sheets, a strategist with Mortgage Stanley, in a note to clients a few days ago. “We think that 2H will follow a different storyline, with decelerating growth and rising inflation across major regions.”

Diane Swonk is also wary of what lies ahead after the Q2 print. In particular, she’s says that trade-war risk is a potential headwind. “The US economy has a bit of a cushion, and we can weather the storm for a bit,” the chief economist at Grant Thornton told CNBC earlier this week.  “But the storm is still brewing and the undercurrents are clearly forming.”

Perhaps, although trade-war rhetoric eased yesterday at the White House’s press conference with President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. In a joint statement, the pair announced plans to eliminate tariffs, boost trade, improve cooperation on energy purchases, and streamline efforts to reform the World Trade Organization.

“Disaster avoided,” Bart Oosterveld, the director of the global business and economics program at the Atlantic Council, told The New York Times after yesterday’s statement. “Earlier today, our highest hopes were for a truce, and this is kind of like a truce.”

Given Trump’s mercurial nature, however, there’s still a high amount of uncertainty for the path of global trade for the rest of the year into 2019. As a number of analysts have pointed out, the president has recently announced breakthroughs on trade discussions with China, which turned out to be false dawns and a prelude to new tariff announcements.

Is it different this time? Only Trump knows for sure, or so one can assume.

Meantime, the next round of numbers for GDP are on track to deliver bullish news. Deciding what it means for the near-term future will remain hotly debated until a clearer outlook emerges in the incoming Q3 data.

A preliminary estimate sees a deceleration coming. A new survey of economists published by FocusEconomics calls for a pullback in US GDP growth to 2.7% in Q3 after an expected 4.0% rise in tomorrow’s Q2 release. The main event for macro analysis in the weeks ahead: determining if the numbers to come offer a reason to upgrade the forecast.