Q4 Growth Likely to be Stronger than Q3

Thursday we got another indication that the U.S. economy is returning to strong growth. The government’s first estimate for the third quarter came in at a 3.5 percent annual pace.

Again most economists were wrong. The consensus was for only a 3.2% jump. In fact several analysts had actually lowered their estimates yesterday in advance of the report.

The quarter was the first to experience the positive effects of emergency government stimulus programs put in place earlier in the year.

Growth in consumer spending and confidence, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, contributed significantly to the rebound.

Purchases of durable goods, which include autos, jumped 22 percent, the biggest increase since 2001. The governments $3B Clunkermania program obviously contributed significantly to that huge durable goods jump. But what was perhaps more encouraging was the data that showed that even excluding sales, production and inventories of automobiles, the economy grew 1.9 percent in the quarter. The stimulus programs are acting as a catalyst and not just the only source of growth.

Many economists now agree that the recession ended earlier in the year. As we have said for quite sometime, when the National Bureau of Economic Research officially marks the recession’s end, they will likely point to June 2009. And that prediction was made by professor Mark Hirschey back in November of 2008.

In the 3rd quarter, residential construction also jumped at a 23 percent annual rate. It was the first quarterly gain in almost four years and the largest jump since 1986.

The home-building market — which as be ailing for several years — surged as sales climbed, propelled in part by an $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers. The credit (also part of the emergency stimulus past by the US government earlier this year) will likely be extended with the support of the majority of the Senate.

And Q3 earnings continue to be strong — pointing to not only moderate growth in Q3 — but extremely strong growth in Q4 and into 2010.

Amazon in particular has used the past year of recession to continue to decimate it’s brick and mortar competition. Amazon, which is reorganizing the retail market value chain continues to produce strong results. “You should see more expansion in the categories we’re in, as well as more geographical expansion over time,” said Amazon’s Chief Financial Officer Thomas Szkutak last Thursday.

In the overall manufacturing sector, total inventories in Q3 continue to drop precipitously. The only conclusion: factory production will need to keep pace with significant upward momentum.

As stockpiles decrease and demand continues to grow more factories will need to come back online quickly. The gains required to produce such output will now lead to a quick rebound in hiring.

In September, the unemployment rate likely reached it’s peak and with growth now ramping significantly in the 4th quarter, overall job growth is just around the corner.

You’ll remember that we warned back in August to not be surprised by robust Q3 growth. Don’t be caught off guard again with Q4 growth that will prove to be even stronger.

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