NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. economy grew a bit faster than initially thought in the fourth quarter on slightly firmer consumer and business spending, which could help to allay fears of a sharp slowdown in growth in early 2012.
“This is continuing the theme of economic performance at the end of the fourth quarter and into the first quarter. But we are not going to see the Q1 GDP above 2.5 percent because we are not going to see the continued build-up in inventory. Still the domestic indicators continue to perform well, although yesterday’s durables goods numbers were iffy. One month doesn’t make a trend.
“We are seeing improving demand for labor and housing. These are very positive trends, but we do have to keep an eye on Europe. They are muddling through so there is some glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. We also have to keep an eye on Asia. China is in a delicate balancing act to navigate to a soft landing for its economy. Japan is on its rebuild after last year’s tsunami.
“The inflation picture is getting a push from rising petroleum prices, but that has been mitigated by weak natural gas prices. A mild winter has kept a lid on home heating oil prices. The total energy picture at the end of 2011 into February has been muted, but we could see it heat up later this year.
“Bernanke will likely remain dour on the economy at his testimony before Congress. QE3 remains very much on the table. But he strikes a more optimistic tone. We could see those expectations (for QE3) to be dialed down.”
TIM GHRISKEY, THE CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, SOLARIS GROUP, NEW YORK
“Obviously, this is a refresh of prior numbers. It does show GDP grew a bit better than expected. On the other hand, the deflator ticked up more than expected for the fourth-quarter. This isn’t the last revision as we still have one more to go, but GDP numbers are above the prior number, taking us to the 3 percent mark. This shows a steady improvement despite all the volatility in stock prices we had last year and shows that we are nowhere near lapsing back to recession.
“It’s not a major revision and it’s backward looking so it will probably have a modest impact on the market today.”
DAVID SLOAN, ECONOMIST, IFR ECONOMICS, A UNIT OF THOMSON REUTERS
“The upward revision to Q4 GDP to 3.0% from 2.8% was not a major surprise, though above the unchanged 2.8% consensus. An upward revision to services consumption to a still subdued 0.7% from 0.2% more than fully explains the upside surprise here. However there was some notable positive news in upward revisions to real disposable income in both Q3 and Q4, which leave the Q4 savings rate at 4.5% rather than a previously reported 3.7%. This puts the consumer on a firmer foundation as we enter 2012. Price data was also revised higher, though inflationary pressures in Q4 still look modest.”
“The GDP breakdown may not have improved much, but the revisions to income and price data argue against a need for QE3.”
TOM PORCELLI, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS, NEW YORK
“It’s the second look at Q4. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot going on right here. It’s very neutral.
“It’s two tenths of a percent. I don’t think that’s going to change the tone of the discussion.”
Americas Economics and Markets Desk