Missing U.S. GDP Data Now Available With New Census Report

  • Advance wholesale, retail inventory figures for June issued
  • Combined with trade, new figures fill in information gaps

The Bureau of Economic Analysis no longer needs to take an educated guess for some components of gross domestic product when it issues its first estimate of U.S. economic growth on Friday. The Census Bureau has filled in the remaining blanks.

A Census report Thursday for the first time provided data on wholesale and retail inventories for the last month of a quarter, figures that were previously available only with a one-month lag. Combined with the advance estimates for trade flows, also issued Thursday, the more timely update may improve the accuracy of the growth numbers and limit the magnitude of next month’s GDP revisions.

The advance report showed wholesale stockpiles were little changed in June after rising 0.1 percent the prior month. Retailers had 0.5 percent more goods on hand for a second month. Meanwhile, the trade gap for goods widened 3.6 percent to $63.3 billion, a four-month high, from $61.1 billion in May.

The reading on stockpiles at wholesalers was weaker than the 0.2 percent 
gain preliminary median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg ahead of the final figures to be issued on Aug. 9. The trade gap exceeded the projected $61 billion deficit in a survey of 36 economists.

Cutting Estimates

The report signals some analysts may reduce estimates for second-quarter economic growth as the trade deficit widens and companies curb stocks. The world’s largest economy grew at a 2.6 percent annualized rate from April through June, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed ahead of Friday’s release.

Economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York cut their GDP forecast to 1.7 percent from 2.2 percent following the report.

“The inventory correction looks severe in 2Q,” and probably subtracted more than a percentage point from GDP last quarter, JPMorgan economist Daniel Silver wrote in a research note. Still, the rundown in stockpiles “should be a positive for growth going forward” as companies look to restock shelves and warehouses, he said.

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