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Q1 GDP: Deja Vu All Over Again

Thursday, April 28, 2016

(This is Mark Vickery covering for Sheraz Mian, who is conducting an interview.)

The first read on first-quarter Gross Domestic Product (Q1 GDP) was just released this morning, and results were weaker than expected at +0.5 percent (0.7 percent had been expected). This follows an unrevised +1.4 percent in Q4. This also represents the weakest quarterly read since Q1 2014, when growth was at -0.9 percent.

Does it seem like deja vu all over again? You’d be forgiven for thinking it is — we again look toward Q2 to help spur GDP gains after another weak Q1 read. Also keep in mind this is just the first go-around, with revisions likely to follow. But currently we’ve established a pattern of early-year weakness; hopefully we’ll see growth begin to take off more strongly as the weather warms up.

Business investment tanked in Q1, falling -5.9 percent. Much of this is directly related to a flagging oil & gas industry. Consumer spending was also down to +1.9 percent, likely related to auto sales on the wane following a strong end to 2015. If businesses continue to keep spending low near-term, we may become even more reliant on the consumer side to pick up the slack.

We’re seeing weaker futures this morning following the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) decision to not make a move either on negative interest rates or its huge QE (quantitative easing) program. BoJ Governor Kuroda mentioned he would do “whatever it takes” to keep the value of the yen under control, boost inflation, etc., but remains in wait-and-see mode at this time, in order to assess the effectiveness of current measures.

What resulted overnight was the yen gaining 3 percent on the U.S. dollar and 2.8 percent versus other currencies. The Japanese markets tumbles around 3 1/2 percent Thursday, and have taken U.S. futures down with it.

Weekly jobless claims rose by 9000 for the week, up to 257K following a revised 248K last week. This remains in a reasonable range, right around 250K per week, which illustrates relative strength in the near-term job market.

After the bell today we expect quarterly earnings from Amazon (AMZN). It’s been a strange quarter for the overall tech industry, with weak results from Alphabet (GOOGL) last week and a blowout report from Facebook (FB) yesterday afternoon. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has been notably unconcerned with near-term earnings results, but the company has performed so strongly with its cloud-based AWS and Prime businesses that there is the potential for another home run earnings report.

For a comprehensive take on Q1 earnings season thus far, please check Sheraz Mian's latest Earnings Trends report.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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