Reuters offers this “snap-analysis” of the fourth quarter GDP numbers released this morning:
At first glance, the 3.2 percent growth rate for gross domestic product looks light, considering economists polled by Reuters expected a 3.5 percent pace.
However, the figures show consumer spending growing at the fastest rate in four years and international trade providing a surprisingly large lift. Both show an economy that is pulling more of its own weight, an important development as government stimulus spending fades.
Essentially, we had a strong Christmas season. Shoppers were spending, though there seems to be agreement that 3.2% growth is too anemic to cause any downward movement of the unemployment needle.
The other news is a surge in exports which Reuters describes as the biggest contribution to GDP growth since 1980:
The figures suggest a weakening U.S. dollar is helping to boost exports, a priority for President Barack Obama and part of the formula for rebalancing global growth.
So we may be seeing some benefits (yes, I said benefits) of the quantitative easing program. Just Wednesday, the Fed decided to continue with their established QE plan and that move has drawn renewed criticism from the Chinese firm responsible for managing their foreign exchange reserves. They not so subtly compared the dollar to “Zimbabwe notes” this week (a currency that underwent hyper-inflation in 2009).
Inflation is the big risk inherent in quantitative easing and some members of the Fed’s rotating board expressed concerns about it on Wednesday. But Bernanke and a majority of the board continue to press forward. No doubt we’re playing a dangerous game here, but for the moment this move seems to be irritating all the right people and making a noticeable dent in our balance of trade.