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Business Investment in U.S. May Be Understated, Feroli Says

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Business investment in the U.S. was probably stronger last quarter than government data indicate, according to Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York.

The 2.9 percent gain in spending on equipment at an annualized rate last quarter may actually have been closer to 8 percent, Feroli said in a research report today. Such an increase would have added an additional 0.25 percentage point to the 2.5 percent advance in gross domestic product the Commerce Department reported for the period from April through June.

“We believe that actual business equipment spending isn’t as soft as the official number,” Feroli wrote.

Feroli came to that conclusion after looking at data on machinery sales and inventories by wholesalers. The money spent on new machines accounts for about 33 percent of total equipment investments, he said.

Wholesale machinery sales jumped at a 24 percent annualized rate in the second quarter and inventories dropped at an almost $11 billion pace, according to Feroli’s calculations. The jump in demand and drawdown in stockpiles indicate a much larger gain in spending on this category than the government’s data show, he said.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis, the group within the Commerce Department charged with calculating economic growth, doesn’t take into account changes in inventories when compiling its estimate for business investment, Feroli said.

“BEA is continually looking to improve its estimation methodologies,” said Nicole Mayerhauser, chief of BEA’s national income and wealth division, said in an e-mail.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carlos Torres in Washington Ctorres2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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