One glance at today's second read of Q3 GDP may leave some with the false impression that the US economy is soaring, because after sliding to 1.3% in Q2, and after a preliminary read of 2.0% in the first Q3 estimate, today's print, which missed estimates of a 2.8% print, did nonetheless rise to 2.7%. "A stunning success", the administration sycophants would say. Absolutely wrong. Because a quick glance at the underlying numbers shows the true picture of the economy which contracted far more than most expected, with personal consumption collapsing to 1.4% Q/Q, on hopes of a 1.9% rise, and down from 2.0%. In fact, at 0.99% personal consumption expenditures - the core driver of 70% of the US economy - were a tiny 36% of the headline number. Ironically today's second GDP revision was far worse when analyzed at the component level, than the first Q3 estimate, which while lower overall at 2.0%, at least had personal consumption nearly 50% higher at 1.42%, or well over half of the total contribution. So what drove "growth" in Q3? Nothing short of the most hollow and worst components of GDP: Government Spending, which soared to 0.67% of the annualized number, the first positive print in years, and of course, Inventories, which were responsible for 30% of the headline number. Finally, and most importantly, Fixed Investment, aka CapEx, was a meager 0.1%, or the lowest GDP contribution since Q1 2011. Without CapEx there is no corporate revenue growth (and future hiring intentions) period.
Sadly not even Sandy can be blamed on the collapse in consumption in Q3, for the simple reason that the Hurricane did not hit until 1 month into Q4. Perhaps it is Sandy's fault it did not hit sooner. In the meantime, all those hoping that the US consumer is finally waking up from his slumber and is spending (on credit of course) like a drunken sailor (for anything more than iPads using student loan proceeds), will have to wait until Q1 2013, as the Q4 2012 number will be even uglier than the one just released.
And a longer-term confirmation of the collapse of Personal Consumption courtesy of John Lohman: