Thursday, December 08, 2005

Economy "Galloping" Along

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Not only is the economy booming, but it's doing so in a shocking fashion:
The economy's resilience is especially evident in the latest update on growth from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The BEA's second look at third-quarter gross domestic product showed that the economy grew by a robust 4.3% annual rate, even with the business shutdowns caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And real GDP in the fourth quarter appears to be increasing at a healthy pace of greater than 3%. For all of 2005, real GDP is on track to expand by 3.7%.
All good signs. But it gets better:
That's a bit higher than the 3.5% projected by the economists surveyed by BusinessWeek at the end of 2004. But what's more revealing is that the consensus forecast was predicated on oil prices slipping back to $39 per barrel by now and the Federal Reserve hiking its target for the federal funds rate to only 3.4% by yearend. Instead, oil remains well above $55 and fed funds have already reached 4%, with more hikes on the way.
And yet, GDP is up. The article goes through a number of reasons for this, but there's one telling paragraph:
MUCH OF THAT STRENGTH, surprisingly enough, will be concentrated in the consumer sector, which has weathered the shocks of 2005. The GDP revisions show real consumer spending increased at an annual rate of 4.2% in the third quarter. That's better than the 3.9% pace previously estimated, and it occurred during a quarter when gasoline prices hit more than $3 per gallon.
This really shouldn't be so surprising. Whereas in past years, consumers who were getting hit were stuck, with the Bush tax cuts, those same consumers are now holding on to an extra thousand dollars or more - and they are able to spend it. Another reason is simple optimism about the economy, despite articles by the New York Times that try to cast doubt (previously discussed).
One reason consumers may be willing to spend is because they are feeling more optimistic about the economy. The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence jumped to 98.9 in November from 85.2 in October. The nearly 14-point gain was the biggest increase in 2 1/2 years. The indexes covering current economic conditions and consumers' assessment for the next six months both rose sharply.

The board attributed the upbeat sentiments to a more than 40 cents drop in the price of a gallon of gas and better job growth. Fewer households rated jobs as "hard to get" in November. By the end of the month, regular gasoline had dropped to an average of $2.15 nationally, and it had dipped below $2 in some parts of the country.

While the article has plenty of other good points, and is worthwhile reading, the closing line is excellent:
With strong earnings fueling capital spending, and with improving confidence and better job markets powering consumer outlays, overall demand will be strong enough to energize the economy heading into 2006. And while only time will tell if the Colts will remain unbeaten, little in the data suggests that the economy will be thrown for a loss anytime soon.
I don't think the Colts are going to lose anytime soon, either.

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