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U.S. economy contracts for second-straight quarter, GDP falls at 0.9% pace in Q2

·3 min read

U.S. economic activity contracted for the second consecutive quarter in Q2, data from the Commerce Department showed Thursday.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis' advance estimate of Q2 U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) showed a 0.9% annualized decrease in economic growth for the three-month period ended June 30.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected data to show the U.S. economy grew at an annualized pace of 0.4% last quarter.

The decline in GDP comes after U.S. economic activity unexpectedly fell 1.6% during the first quarter, the first negative reading since the second quarter of 2020. Two straight negative GDP prints meets the unofficial definition of a recession.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell attends a news conference following a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell attends a news conference following a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), however, says a recession "is a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months."

The government's preliminary reading on second-quarter GDP — the broadest measure of economic activity — comes one day after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told reporters at a press conference that he did not believe the economy is in a recession, even as other economic indicators show signs of softening.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis attributed the decline in GDP to broad-based decreases across private inventory investment, residential and nonresidential investment, and federal, state and local government spending.

A decrease in retail trade, primarily across general merchandise stores and motor vehicle dealers, dragged down inventory investment, while the fall in residential investment was weighed down by factors including brokers' commissions, the report said.

Capital Economics Senior U.S. Economist Andrew Hunter indicated in a note that while the GDP reading was "disappointing," it did not necessarily indicate that the economy is in a recession.

"The decline was partly due to a huge drag from inventories, while most other coincident indicators, particularly employment, show continued expansion," he added. "That said, the details show that higher rates and surging inflation are weighing on underlying demand, and we expect only a muted rebound in economic growth over the second half of the year."

Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) — or consumer spending — which comprises roughly two-thirds of domestic activity rose at a pace of just 1%, a slowdown from the prior quarter. Bloomberg consensus data showed economists expected a 1.2% increase in consumption.

The deceleration came as inflation surged at the fastest annual rate since 1981, weighing on Americans' ability to afford the costs of gas, food, and shelter.

People shop in a supermarket as inflation affected consumer prices in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., June 10, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
People shop in a supermarket as inflation affected consumer prices in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., June 10, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Growth was also curbed by by a 2 percentage point drag from inventories as supply chain imbalances lingered.

"This was a big drag in the first quarter too, but market forecasts for both quarters seem not to have appreciated the scale of the hit," Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson said, adding the third quarter is likely to see a meaningful reversal, with inventories expected to be a positive contributor to GDP growth.

Elsewhere in the report, residential investment plunged 14% as skyrocketing mortgage rates slowed home purchases.

Government spending declined for a third consecutive quarter, and business investment fell 0.1% due to decreases in structures and equipment spending.

Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc

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