An employee uses a level at the Caterpillar Inc. engine manufacturing facility in Sequin, Texas, U.S. (Photographer: Callaghan O’Hare/Bloomberg)

U.S. Second-Quarter Growth Revised Up to 4.2% on Software, Trade

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy expanded in the second quarter at a slightly faster pace than previously estimated on revisions to imports and software spending, bolstering the strongest period of growth since 2014, according to Commerce Department data released Wednesday.

Highlights of Second-Quarter GDP (Second Estimate)

  • Gross domestic product grew at a 4.2% annualized rate (est. 4%), revised from 4.1%; still fastest since third quarter of 2014
  • Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, grew 3.8% (est. 3.9%), revised from 4%; reflects downward revisions in motor vehicles, nondurable goods, health care
  • Intellectual-property investment rose at 11% pace, revised from 8.2%; imports fell 0.4%, boosting GDP calculation, after previously reported 0.5% rise, reflecting petroleum
  • Corporate pretax profits rose 7.7% y/y and 3.3% q/q, both the most since 2014, in the first estimate issued for last quarter; follows 5.9% y/y rise in first quarter and marks seventh straight y/y gain

Key Takeaways

The revisions to GDP, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., offer President Donald Trump another chance to stake his claim to the pickup in growth, as he did following the initial GDP report a month earlier. Trump had called the numbers “amazing” and “very sustainable,” declaring his policies, including the biggest tax overhaul since the Reagan era, a success.

Even so, the pace of expansion is expected to cool from the second quarter as the tax-cut boost fades, a trade war threatens business demand and the Federal Reserve raises interest rates further. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg project a 2.9 percent expansion for the full year.

Household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, have been supported by a strong job market and lower taxes. In addition, a rise in gasoline costs earlier this year has eased, reducing a risk to spending.

The continuing acceleration in profit growth suggests corporate America is benefiting from strength in consumer and business demand. That, together with lower taxes, could bode well for further gains in investment this year, though after-tax profit growth cooled from the first quarter, when the cuts took effect.

U.S. Second-Quarter Growth Revised Up to 4.2% on Software, Trade

Price data in the GDP report showed inflation was in line with the Fed’s 2 percent goal. Excluding food and energy, the central bank’s preferred price index that’s tied to personal spending rose at a 2 percent annualized rate, the same as in the initial report.

What Our Economists Say

Investment was revised higher in the second print of GDP, particularly in equipment, which is a sign of supply constraints. Look for investment to play an increasingly important role in economic growth as aggregate demand for goods and services remains strong and resource utilization tightens. The second print of GDP contained the first look at corporate profits for the period, which, unsurprisingly, continued to trend higher in the quarter. The above-trend pace of economic activity and changes to the tax code have lifted profits this year -- further proof that investment spending is likely to pick up.

-- Tim Mahedy, Yelena Shulyatyeva and Carl Riccadonna, Bloomberg Economics

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