The Latest Economic Numbers

On Friday, Market Watch reported that the U.S. economy did better than expected during the first three months of 2019.

The article reports:

Reports of the demise of the U.S. economy proved unfounded as first-quarter activity showed surprising strength. The U.S. economy expanded at a 3.2% annual pace in the first three months of 2019, the government said Friday.

The gain was well above forecasts. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 2.3% increase in gross domestic product. The economy grew at a 2.2% rate in the final three months of 2018.

Inflation moderated a bit in the first quarter.

The article includes other good economic news:

Final sales to domestic purchasers, which excludes trade and inventory behavior, rose 2.3% in the first quarter, the smallest gain in three years, but still well above what economists were expecting.

The value of inventories increased to $128.4 billion from $96.8 billion, adding to GDP.

The trade sector added a little more than 1% to growth in the first quarter. Exports rose 3.7%, while imports dropped by the same amount, leading to a smaller trade deficit.

Offsetting these gains, consumer spending decelerated to a 1.2% gain, the slowest increase in a year.

Business fixed investment decelerated to a relatively slow 2.7% gain, down from a 5.4% gain in the prior quarter. Investment in structures fell 0.8%, the third straight decline.

Investment in new housing was another weak spot. Residential investment dropped 2.8%, the fifth straight quarterly decline.

I believe that the weakness in the housing market is being caused by a number of things. The millennials, the generation that would currently be entering the housing market, are weighed down by student debt. There is also a different attitude among young Americans about owning a house that there was a few generations ago. In the past, many Americans looked at their home as an investment–something that would grow in value over the years. Many older people began with a ‘starter house’–a small house that allowed them to enter into the housing market. Today, couples are having children later than previous generations. Their first house is paid for by two incomes, and they are not dealing with the expense of having children. The concept of a ‘starter house’ is no longer with us. Those facts, along with the price of the home most young people want to own are working to slow down the housing market. I am not convinced any of those factors are going to change.

Even The Good News Is Clouded With Doom When The Media Reports It

Market Watch posted an article yesterday about the January trade deficit in America. The article notes that the deficit shrank to $51.1 billion in January from almost $60 billion in December. That is really good news. However, the media doesn’t seem to want good economic news.

The article notes:

Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a $57.7 billion deficit.

Notice that they were more than a little off.

The article continues:

The lower U.S. trade deficit, if it persists, could provide a small boost in the first quarter to gross domestic product, the official scorecard of the economy. But the drop in imports could also be taken as sign of softening demand in the U.S. that adds to worries about a slower growth.

Whatever the case, the U.S. is coming off the highest annual deficit in a decade and it’s unlikely the gap will shrink much if at all in 2019.

The President is renegotiating trade deals. This is not an ‘instant’ process. His negotiating skills and business acumen are responsible for the growing economy–the unemployment rate is down and the workforce participation rate is up. Can someone in the media please give President Trump a little credit and show a little optimism.