Reversal Investments and Experts Slow GDP Growth

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Written by Dean Baker   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 07:58

The rate of GDP growth slowed to just 0.1 percent in the first quarter, largely as a result of sharp reversals in exports and investment in equipment. In the fourth quarter, exports had grown at a 9.5 percent annual rate adding 1.23 percentage points to fourth quarter growth. Equipment investment rose at a 10.9 percent rate adding 0.58 percentage points to growth. Both numbers were largely reversed in the current quarter, with exports shrinking at a 7.6 percent rate and equipment investment falling at a 5.5 percent rate. Together these drops subtracted 1.39
percentage points from growth for the quarter.

There was also a reversal on inventories, which showed a slower rate of accumulation in the quarter. As a result, they subtracted 0.57 percentage points from growth in the quarter. They had added 1.87 percentage points to the strong 4.1 percent growth number reported for the third quarter of 2013.

One strong spot was health care spending, which added 1.1 percentage points to growth for the quarter. This is undoubtedly the effect of the Affordable Care Act. Presumably this indicates a one-time jump and not a higher rate of growth going forward. While the weakness in the first quarter number is clearly overstated by focusing on the 0.1 percent overall growth figure, this report suggests GDP growth might for 2014 might be somewhat lower than most forecasters had expected.