Economists are nearly unanimous in thinking that the escalating rounds of tariffs and countermeasures will be bad for the United States economy in the long run. But for one quarter, at least, trade tensions could have actually led to faster growth, as foreign buyers rushed to stock up on American goods before tariffs took effect. The resulting surge in exports could add a percentage point or more to the G.D.P. figure.
The trend is particularly clear in exports of soybeans, which were up more than 50 percent in May from a year earlier. Those buyers presumably didn’t want more soybeans than usual — they just wanted them sooner. Exports will almost certainly slump in the third and fourth quarters, and will turn into a drag on overall economic growth.
For a better sense of the pace of growth, economists will look at what the Commerce Department calls “final sales to domestic purchasers.” That measure strips out the effects of trade and of inventories, which can be similarly skewed by quirks of the calendar. (Both numbers are also subject to big revisions.) Anything above 3 percent would reflect strong underlying growth.