US growth slows as trade war weighs on businesses



WASHINGTON: The United States’ conomic growth slowed in the second quarter as consumer spending rose, though weaker business investment and exports underscored the risks spurring the Federal Reserve toward an interest-rate cut. Gross domestic product (GDP) expanded at a 2.1 per cent annualised rate, according to Commerce Department data Friday that topped forecasts for 1.8 per cent.


Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, increased 4.3 per cent, while government spending climbed 5 per cent and offered the biggest boost in a decade. Non-residential investment fell 0.6 per cent for the first drop since 2015 and residential decreased for a sixth straight period.


Treasury yields rose as the data probably reduced chances of a half-point Fed interest-rate cut next week, instead of the expected quarter-point. Revised data released on Friday showed the economy missed Trump’s 3 per cent growth goal in 2018, after previous data had showed it matching.


Friday’s report showed fresh evidence that trade is weighing on the expansion as exports dropped 5.2 per cent while imports rose just 0.1 per cent. Overall growth on a year-over-year basis slowed to 2.3 per cent, the weakest pace in two years. Excluding the volatile trade and inventories components of GDP, final sales to domestic purchasers increased at a 3.5 per cent pace, the best in a year. Economists monitor this measure for a better sense of underlying demand.


Inventories were a drag on growth, subtracting 0.86 point from growth after a 0.53 point contribution in the prior period. The Fed’s preferred underlying inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures price index excluding food and energy, firmed to a 1.8 per cent annual pace in the quarter, closer to policymakers’ 2 per cent objective. The expansion, which this month became the longest on record, is cooling as the effects of the 2018 fiscal stimulus fade and global growth slows, with the International Monetary Fund again cutting its estimate earlier this week.


A stronger dollar and new tariffs are also making it less desirable to do business with the US. Other data have highlighted the cooler pace of growth, with manufacturing figures showing tepid conditions and bellwether Caterpillar Inc reporting a lackluster second quarter. A US measure of production has declined in consecutive quarters, the common definition of recession, while a gauge of global factory activity contracted in May and June.


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