By Jeff Harding
The First Quarter GDP numbers just came out: down 6.1% on top of a 6.3% decline in Fourth Quarter 2008.
This was greater than was expected:
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a 4.6% drop in GDP during the first three months of 2009. With a 0.5% drop in the third quarter, GDP has now fallen three consecutive quarters. That hasn’t happened in 34 years, since third-quarter 1974 through first-quarter 1975.
According to the BEA:
- Real personal consumption expenditures increased 2.2 percent in the first quarter, in contrast to a decrease of 4.3 percent in the fourth;
- Real nonresidential fixed investment decreased 37.9 percent in the first quarter;
- Nonresidential structures decreased 44.2 percent;
- Equipment and software decreased 33.8 percent;
- Real residential fixed investment decreased 38.0 percent.
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March indicates that the economy has continued to contract, though the pace of contraction appears to be somewhat slower. Household spending has shown signs of stabilizing but remains constrained by ongoing job losses, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Weak sales prospects and difficulties in obtaining credit have led businesses to cut back on inventories, fixed investment, and staffing. Although the economic outlook has improved modestly since the March meeting, partly reflecting some easing of financial market conditions, economic activity is likely to remain weak for a time. Nonetheless, the Committee continues to anticipate that policy actions to stabilize financial markets and institutions, fiscal and monetary stimulus, and market forces will contribute to a gradual resumption of sustainable economic growth in a context of price stability.
President “Bobby”: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President “Bobby”: In the garden.
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President “Bobby”: Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President “Bobby”: Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President “Bobby”: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.