Data, data everywhere in the next two days. From inflation to GDP.
To begin with the Bureau of Economic Analysis is scheduled to report first quarter U.S. GDP growth on April 28. Economists expect to see that the economy has grown at an annualized rate of just 1.1% in the quarter. (That would be a huge drop from the 6.9% rate in the fourth quarter of 2021.) But they warn that the headline number will be extremely misleading. The drop in the growth rate will be a result of businesses continuing to rebuild inventories–which takes a bite out of the GDP calculation–and a rise in the U.S.trade deficit. The growth in the trade deficit will lower reported GDP although it is a sign of strength in the U.S. economy since it will come from an increase in U.S.imports. Bloomberg Economics projects that the slow down in first quarter GDP growth will be temporary and projects that growth will rebound to a 3.5% annualized rate in the second quarter of 2022.
Friday will bring the Personal Consumption Expenditures index, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation. The PCE index is estimated to have risen 6.7% in March from a year earlier.
Economic reports are also expected to show that while wages are climbing at a rapid rate, they aren’t keeping up with inflation. Compared to a year earlier, real average hourly earnings have declined for 12 straight months.
Despite that inflation adjusted decline in wages, consumers have continued to spend. Economists expect consumer spending grew at a 3.5% annualized pace in the first three months of the year, which would be the strongest pace in three quarters.
But increasingly that spending is coming at the expense of saving. The savings rate is now just above an eight-year low.
All these numbers come just before the Federal Reserve meets on Wednesday, May 4. The Fed is expected to raise interest rates at that meeting. The CME Fed Watch tool puts the odds of a 50 basis point increase in the Fed’s benchmark interest rate at 96.5%.