The nation's first-quarter gross domestic product, which had been initially estimated to have risen by a scant 0.1%, was revised downward, and significantly so, in the latest look at that measure of total economic output.
Specifically, GDP is now estimated to have fallen by a full percentage point for the latest quarter; a decline of 0.6% had been the consensus forecast going into this morning. Meanwhile, this was the biggest decline in aggregate economic output in some three years.
The decline in first-quarter growth mainly was attributable to lower investment, especially in new housing, offices, and plants. Also, business investment in structures was revised to show a sharp 7.5% drop instead of a slight gain of 0.2%. Residential investment likewise plummeted, falling by 5.0%. Further, inventory investment took place at a slower rate. All told, inventories, originally estimated to have added some $87 billion to GDP in the term, were revised to show just under a $50 billion increase. Elsewhere, exports and state and local government spending detracted from GDP. Positive contributions were made by personal consumption expenditures, a critical component.
Encouragingly, a lot of this setback and overall poor performance during the earlier period was likely due to the weather's impact on both growth and aggregate costs. Delays in shopping and the uncertainties engendered by the greater costs of dealing with the weather crimped business and certain forms of consumer activity notably in the term. This should be a short-run penalty, however. In fact, recently issued data already show some catch up, especially in housing, where homebuilding and sales activity ticked up in April. Overall, we see GDP gaining some 3% in the current stanza, helped, in part, by some likely inventory restocking.
It should be noted that the GDP revision issued today is based on more complete source data than were available for the so-called advance estimate issued last month. This "preliminary" report on GDP will be superseded next month by a final estimate.
Overall, this was a disquieting report, with the one saving grace being that it seemed largely attributable to the weather's ill impact. Our sense, as noted, is that we will see a major turn in the current period and then a further gain in the second half. That comeback should continue into 2015.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.