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First Cut: Initial estimate of fourth quarter GDP much as expected at up 2.6%

Given that the first quarter 2019 is already two-thirds gone, the release of the initial GDP estimate for the fourth quarter 2018 should not be big news. However, having a hard number to put on growth for last year is a welcome development after the delays in data reporting related to the partial government shutdown.  The pace of growth peaked at 4.2% in the second quarter last year, dipped to 3.4% in the third quarter (a revision from 3.5% after some fresh data became available), and slipped to 2.6% in the fourth quarter. The injection of fiscal stimulus from the tax package enacted in December 2017 was quick to be felt but dissipated fairly rapidly. There were other factors in the slowing activity in the second half of 2018 such as more sluggish expansion in the global economy and impacts from trade and tariff policy that moved some activity into the first half of the year to avoid expected higher costs related to import taxes. In any case, growth of 2.6% is more on trend with recent years and indicative of continued underlying, sustainable moderate economic expansion.


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