The first reading on first quarter U.S. GDP came in this morning at 3.2%— much better than expected. This is a huge positive surprise, for what many expected to be a terrible quarter.
Just a month ago, the consensus view was something closer to 1%. Goldman was looking for 0.7% going into the end of the quarter.
With that, we’ve been talking about this set-up for positive surprises all year.
Remember, the economy added on average 173,000 jobs a month in Q1. Both manufacturing and services PMIs expanded in the quarter, and stocks fully recovered the losses from December. Add to that, just days into the first quarter, the Fed told us they were done raising rates. Whatever headwinds the Fed was stirring up, quickly became tailwinds.
Yet we’ve been told an economic recession was coming and an earnings recession upon us. The above is a recipe for growth, not contraction.
Still, as we’ve discussed, never underestimate the appetite of Wall Street and corporate America to dial down expectations when given the opportunity. That sets the table for positive surprises. And positive surprises are fuel for stocks. Stocks are fuel for confidence. Confidence is fuel for the economy.
Last week we looked at the early signals on Q1 economic activity. The positive surprises started with what looks like the bottom in Chinese industrial output and retail sales (two key indicators of economic health). This is important because the global slowdown fears have been centered around the weak Chinese economy.
Then both UK retail sales and the U.S. retail sales came in better. And yesterday, we had a hot durable goods orders number in the U.S for March.
So, despite the negative picture that has been painted, the trajectory of U.S. economic growth seems to be well intact.
This is just the first reading on the Q1 number, but it gives us an average annualized growth rate of three percent even. The average annualized growth coming out of the Great Recession (pre-Trumponomics) was just 2.2%.
And keep in mind, the next big pillar of Trumponomics is a trillion-dollar-plus infrastructure spend (with bipartisan support).
Just as expectations have been dialed down, this is where we could see a real economic boom kick in, especially if we get a deal on China (clearing that drag on sentiment). As we’ve discussed, we are well overdue for an economic boom period. We’ve yet to have the bounce-back in growth that is typical of a post-recession, if not post-depression environment. You can see in the table below, the six years that followed the Great Depression, relative to the growth coming out of the Great Recession …