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GDP Rises 1.7% as ‘Taylor Swift Effect’ Adds to Growth


While the headline second quarter GDP result of 1.7% came in better than expected, the less followed comprehensive revisions, deployed by the Bureau of Economic Analysis just re-wrote 83 years of economic history.

While economists will spend weeks pouring over the new data, the big takeaway is that, by any measure, the world's biggest economy continues to chug along at a sub-par pace.

"There are a lot of moving parts to GDP," says Kevin Cummins, U.S. economist at UBS in the attached video. "In any given quarter you can have a couple different takes at the data because so much goes into it."

As he sees it, the latest numbers speak well for improving growth in the second half, thanks in part to a big upward revision to the savings rate, which rose to 4.5% of disposable income.

"We are a little bit more optimistic about growth prospects in the second half of this year and into 2014," Cummins says. "It looks like the consumer is perhaps in better shape now."

Also of note this quarter is the expanded coverage of intellectual property products, explained by the BEA below:

"Expenditures for research and development (R&D) and for entertainment, literary, and artistic originals provide long-lasting service to the businesses, nonprofit institutions, and government agencies that use them...and will be recorded as fixed investment."

While Cummins supports these periodic changes as necessary to pick up new parts of the economy as it grows and changes, revising the methodology won't make his job any easier.
For example, it is fairly straight forward to count how much money Taylor Swift earned from albums and ticket sales last year, but valuing the future return on investment she might garner from the 14 songs she wrote is a whole new ball game.

All in, he says the latest figures have not changed his overall economic thesis for continued slow growth.

"It appears the private sector is holding up okay," he states, adding that the new numbers have caused "GDP and employment gains to look more in sync now."

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