The US economy grew faster than expected in the third quarter, buoyed by a strong consumer base despite high interest rates, ongoing inflationary pressures and various domestic and global interventions.
Gross domestic product, a measure of all goods and services produced in the U.S., rose at an annualized pace of 4.9% in the July-September period, up from an unrevised 2.1% pace in the second quarter. Department of Commerce said Thursday. Economists polled by Dow Jones had expected a 4.7% acceleration.
This sharp increase was due to contributions from consumer spending, increased inventories, exports, residential investment and government spending.
Consumer spending, measured by personal consumption expenditures, rose 4% in the quarter after rising just 0.8% in Q2. Total private domestic investment rose 8.4% and government spending and investment rose 4.6%.
Spending at the consumer level is evenly split between goods and services, with the two measures accounting for 4.8% and 3.6% respectively.
The GDP increase represents the biggest gain since the fourth quarter of 2021.
Markets reacted little to the news, with stock market futures opening negative and Treasury yields mostly lower.
While the report provides some impetus for the Federal Reserve to keep policy tight, traders are unlikely to see an interest rate hike when the central bank meets next week, according to CME Group data. The December meeting following the GDP release indicated the possibility of a 27% increase in futures prices.
“Investors shouldn’t be surprised by consumer spending in the final months of summer,” said Jeffrey Roche, chief economist at LPL Financial. “The real question is whether this trend can continue in the coming quarters, and we don’t think so.”
In other economic news on Thursday, the Department of Labor said Jobless claims totaled 210,000 for the week ended Oct. 21, up 10,000 from the previous period and slightly ahead of the Dow Jones estimate of 207,000. Further, Durable goods orders It rose 4.7% in September, compared with a 0.1% gain in August and a 2% forecast, according to the Commerce Department.
At a time when many economists thought the U.S. would be in the midst of at least a shallow recession, growth is on pace thanks to consumer spending that has exceeded all expectations. Consumers accounted for 68% of GDP in Q3.
Despite the end of the Covid-19 government cash transfer payments, spending remains strong as households reduce savings and rack up credit card balances.
These gains come despite the fact that the Federal Reserve has not only raised rates at the fastest clip since the early 1980s, but has pledged to keep rates high until inflation returns to an acceptable level. Price increases have been running well above the central bank’s 2% annual target, although the rate of inflation has eased in recent months.
The chain-weighted price index, which takes into account changes in consumer shopping patterns to measure inflation, rose 3.5% in the quarter, up from 1.7% in Q2 and beating the Dow Jones estimate of 2.5%.
Along with rates and inflation, consumers deal with a variety of issues.
Resuming student loan payments are expected to take a bite out of family budgets, while elevated gas prices and a wobbly stock market are hitting confidence levels. Geopolitical tensions also pose potential headaches, with the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the war in Ukraine creating considerable uncertainty about the future.
While the U.S. has proven to be facing various challenges, most economists expect growth to slow significantly in the coming months. However, they generally think the U.S. can avoid a recession without any other unexpected shocks.
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