The growth bulls are out in full force today [01/29/2010 early morning ] in the aftermath of the headline 5.7% QoQ annualized print on fourth quarter GDP growth in the U.S. We offer a slightly different perspective.
First, the report was dominated by a huge inventory adjustment — not the onset of a new inventory cycle, but a transitory realignment of stocks to sales.
Second, it was a tad strange to have had inventories contribute half to the GDP tally, and at the same time see import growth cut in half last quarter. Normally, inventory adds are at least partly fuelled by purchases of foreign-made inputs. Not this time.
Third, if you believe the GDP data — remember, there are more revisions to come — then you de facto must be of the view that productivity growth is soaring at over a 6% annual rate. No doubt productivity is rising — just look at the never-ending slate of layoff announcements. But we came off a cycle with no technological advance and no capital deepening, so it is hard to believe that productivity at this time is growing at a pace that is four times the historical norm. Sorry, but we're not buyers of that view.
Fourth, while the Chicago PMI and the revision to the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index also served up positive surprises, the “hard” data in terms of , home sales and consumer spending suggest that there is little, if any, momentum heading into early 2010. Moreover, the prospect that we see a discernible slowing in the pace of economic activity this quarter and a relapse in the second quarter is non trivial, in my view — by then, today's flashy headline will be a distant memory.
(by David Rosenberg, January 29, 2010)
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