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GDP grew 2.1% in the second quarter, beating expectations

U.S. economic growth decelerated in the second quarter, but slowed less-than-expected as a surge in consumer activity counterbalanced a pullback in business investment, net exports and inventory investment.

Here were the main numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Friday report on gross domestic product, compared against Bloomberg-compiled consensus data.

  • Gross domestic product (GDP): 2.1% vs.1.8% expected and 3.1% in Q1

  • Personal consumption: 4.3% vs. 4.0% expected and 1.1% in Q1

  • Core PCE QoQ: 1.8% vs. 2.0% expected and 1.1% in Q1

First-quarter GDP was unrevised at 3.1%. First-quarter personal consumption was revised up to 1.1%, from 0.9% previously, and first-quarter core PCE was revised down to 1.1%, from 1.2% previously.

Personal consumption, which jumped by the most since 2017, was a leading contributor to economic expansion in the second quarter.

Ahead of Friday’s report, consensus economists had broadly anticipated a resurgence in consumption data to have supported growth in the second quarter, marking a rebound from a more anemic increase in personal consumption at the start of the year. Consumer spending comprises about 70% of U.S. economic activity.

In testimony to Congress earlier this month, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell called consumer spending one of the more “reliable drivers of growth in the economy,” adding that consumption activity was “now running at a solid pace” after a pullback in the first quarter. Headline retail sales, for instance, rose 0.4% on a monthly basis in each of April, May and June, after declining during a portion of the first quarter.

Silhouette of engineer and construction team working at site over blurred background sunset pastel for industry background with Light fair.Create from multiple reference images together.
Silhouette of engineer and construction team working at site over blurred background sunset pastel for industry background with Light fair.Create from multiple reference images together.

However, GDP still decelerated both over last quarter and last year. This had been expected, as ongoing geopolitical tensions took a bite out of trade-related data, and as business investment softened during the period.

The yawning domestic trade deficit widened to a five-month high in May while April’s gap was revised to be larger than previously reported, according to Commerce Department data released earlier in July. While the monthly reports have been lumpy due to new tariff policies, the data suggested net exports over the past several months were set to weigh on second-quarter economic expansion.

“The data clearly shows signs of a bifurcated economy. Weakness in manufacturing has weighed on components like inventories and fixed investment, but the healthy U.S. consumer has helped buoy the economy as seen in the stable reading on personal consumption expenditures,” Michael Reynolds, investment strategy officer at Glenmede, said in an email. “Altogether, robust domestic consumers are more than offsetting the headwinds of a weakening manufacturing economy.”

In the report, the BEA noted that the deceleration in real GDP in the second quarter “reflected downturns in inventory investment, exports, and nonresidential fixed investment.” However, these impacts were partially offset by an acceleration in personal consumption expenditures (PCE), as well as in federal government spending, it added.

The BEA’s report Friday also included revision to GDP reports spanning back to 2014. Revisions showed that GDP grew just 2.5% in 2018 over the year prior, down from the 3% growth shown in a latest estimate.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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