Following a month-long delay due to the government shutdown, officials confirmed what economists and investors already suspected – the economy is slowing. We expect growth to continue to slow towards the 2.0% – 2.5% pace characterized by the post-Financial Crisis expansion, though we caution the potential for Q1 2019 growth to surprise to the downside. However, as we detail in the letter, the domestic economy is on reasonably sound footing, and the economic expansion has room to run if the Fed sticks to their new narrative of being patient.
We typically distribute this report at the time of the quarterly GDP release, but the delay worked to our advantage. In addition to reporting the fastest quarterly economic growth in four years, the Bureau of Economic Analysis revised several years of recent economic data and “found” $3 trillion of previously unreported income. The revision is a game-changer as it relates to perspectives on the status of the consumer, which is a critical input to future GDP growth.
In the fourth quarter, the economy expanded by 2.6% bringing real, annualized GDP growth to 2.3% in 2017. In many ways, 2017 was a prototypical post-Financial Crisis year with regards to economic growth. A weak first quarter gave way to stronger growth in the back half of the year, resulting in a good, but not a great year for the economy.