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US GDP Grew 2.1% in Q4, Global GDP on Track For Worst Year Since Recession

The US economy grew moderately in Q4 2019, with the government confirming a reading of 2.1% annualized growth from October to December. The reading matched an earlier estimate, bringing total GDP for 2019 to 2.3%, missing the Trump administration’s target of 3%.

Key Takeaways

  • The economy grew moderately in 2019, missing government targets for the second year in a row.
  • The coronavirus outbreak is likely to negatively impact growth in 2020.
  • The GDP figures were in line with expectations.

Excluding trade, inventories, and government spending, the economy grew at 1.3% in Q4 2019, the slowest pace of growth in four years. Business investment dropped at a rate of 2.3% rather than the initially reported 1.5% pace. Business investment has seen contraction due to the uncertainty around the US/China trade war, and, more recently, the coronavirus outbreak. Business investment has declined for three quarters in a row, the longest period since the 2009 financial crisis.

Growth came from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), federal government spending, exports, residential fixed investment, and government spending, while private inventory investment and nonresidential fixed investment was down. Equipment spending and government spending in Q4 was downwardly revised. Consumer spending slowed more than previously reported as well, offsetting upward revisions to inventory accumulation and home building.

Coronavirus Impact on US Economy

To date, there is no strong evidence that the virus outbreak is having a major impact on the US economy. However, uncertainty around the outbreak was likely behind the recent $1.7 trillion global stock market sell-off earlier this week. It is now considered more likely that the Federal Reserve will implement rate cuts, although the Fed signalled that rates would be on hold throughout 2020 and has not updated that indication.

It is likely that the virus outbreak will impact the US manufacturing industry by disrupting international supply chains, and the leisure and tourism industries may also be impacted with global quarantines continuing. With the ongoing stock market selloff eroding consumer confidence, it’s possible that the coronavirus will pose a threat to the longest ever period of US economic expansion, now in its 11th year.

Drag on Global Economy

Bank of America Global Research has forecast global GDP growth of just 2.8% in 2020, the worst year since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The bank states that the coronavirus outbreak is a major factor in the estimates, along with political uncertainty surrounding the US/China trade war which has de-escalated, but remains ongoing.

Bank of America economist Aditya Bhave stated “Extended disruptions in China should hurt global supply chains. Weak tourist flows will be another headwind for Asia, and limited outbreaks, similar to the one in Italy, are possible in many countries, leading to more quarantines and weighing on confidence.” Bhave added, “The upcoming Presidential elections add another layer of complexity, as US trade policy would probably change significantly under a Democratic President. Business investment is likely to remain tepid until there is greater clarity on the rules of the game.”

The bank forecasts Chinese growth at 5.2% in 2020, down from 2.9% in 2019. Global GDP growth excluding China is expected to rise 2.2%, which is also the lowest reading of this metric since the financial crisis.

Market Reaction

Gold prices have seen upward momentum in today’s session. Spot gold last traded at $1,654.50/oz, up 0.88% with a high of $1,654.50/oz and a low of $1,637.50/oz. With selling pressure in the stock markets, investors are looking to safe haven assets like gold to protect them from uncertainty around the coronavirus outbreak and its potential impact on the global economy.