U.S. GDP numbers released Friday, a key indicator of economic growth, confirm what I have been saying for weeks…the U.S. economic growth is slowing, not growing.
Here are the full-year GDP numbers for the U.S. over the past three years:
GDP 2009: -2.4%
GDP 2010: 3.0%
GDP 2011: 1.7%
GDP (which stands for gross domestic product: the total market value of all the goods and services produced by a country in a given period) grew at a “lukewarm” 1.7% in 2011 over 2010. When compared to 3.0% growth in GDP in 2010 over 2009, the obvious question is: where is the economic recovery?
The picture becomes even more distressing when we look at fourth-quarter GDP numbers, because they point to a deceleration in growth.
On the surface, the 2.8% rise in fourth-quarter U.S. GDP was weaker than what Wall Street expected. When digging deeper into the numbers, we find that restocking of business inventories accounted for a whopping 1.94 % of GDP in the quarter. This is temporary boost to GDP.
If we remove inventory restocking from the numbers, we find that the U.S. economy grew at just a measly 0.8% in the fourth quarter of 2011, when compared to the third quarter’s 1.8% rise in GDP.
My feeling, looking at my regular economic gauges, is that there is a clear deceleration of growth as we head further into 2012.
Consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of GDP, came in 2.0% higher in the fourth quarter of 2011, missing estimates of 2.4%, but slightly better than the 1.7% pace of the third quarter. Keep in mind, dear reader, as I’ve been saying in PROFIT CONFIDENTIAL, the meager growth the U.S. economy is experiencing is on the back of sharply higher debt spending by consumers (especially over the holidays), which cannot be sustained going forward.
Let’s also keep in mind that gas prices have remained elevated thus far in 2012. With the continued escalation of tensions with Iran and the U.S. dollar falling in value against other major world currencies (except the euro), this will further dampen GDP growth going forward.
Corporate spending on capital goods rose in the fourth quarter of 2011 at the slowest pace since 2009. The corporate sector continues to be timid against the backdrop of slow worldwide economic growth, preferring to stockpile cash instead of inventory.
I’ve been talking about the terrible shape that local and state U.S. governments are in. Their budgets are stretched to the limit, with states like Illinois and California virtually bankrupt. It comes as no surprise that, in the fourth quarter of 2011, the government spending component of GDP shrank for a fifth straight quarter. Many state governments continue to struggle to get their finances under control.
Couple this with the fact that there are no major stimulus programs currently coming out of the White House and we can assume that government spending will continue to remain a drag on GDP growth in 2012.
This latest GDP report merely confirms the weak economic data that have been coming in of late. Not only does this key indicator put downward pressure on the U.S. dollar, but it also makes one wonder how the markets can continue to move higher under these economic circumstances. Eventually, slow or deteriorating economic growth will push down corporate earnings and, when corporate earnings decline, so does the stock market. (Also see: Last Bastion of Higher Stock Prices Turning Negative.)
Where the Market Stands; Where it’s Headed:
The score: What looked like a strong January for the stock market has dissipated. The Dow Jones Industrial Average starts this morning up a diminishing 3.6% for 2012.
Yes, the bear market rally that started in March of 2009 is alive and well. But it is also weak and tired, getting near the end of its cycle.
What He Said:
“I’ve been pushing gold bullion and gold shares for over a year now. Bank in January 2002, I personally started buying gold shares.” Michael Lombardi in PROFIT CONFIDENTIAL, December 13, 2002. Gold bullion was trading under $300.00 an ounce when Michael first started recommending gold-related investments.