GDP boosted by consumers going all in on borrowing and falling savings

“This Is 1987”: Some “Haunting Math” On Today’s GDP Number From David Rosenberg

When discussing today’s unexpectedly weak Q4 GDP print, which came in at 2.6%, far below consensus and whisper estimates in the 3%+ range, and certainly both the Atlanta and NY Fed estimates, we pointed out the silver lining: personal spending and final sales, which surged 4.6% Q/Q (vs 2.2% in Q3), although even this number had a major caveat: “as we discussed previouslymuch of it was the result of a surge in credit card-funded spending while the personal savings rate dropped to levels last seen during the financial crisis.”
Indeed, recall the stunning Gluskin Sheff chart we presented a month ago, which showed that 13-week annualized credit card balances in the U.S. had gone “completely vertical” in the last few months of 2017 which we said “should make for some great Christmas.”

Meanwhile, even more troubling was the ongoing collapse in the US personal savings rate, which last month tumbled to the lowest level since the financial crisis as US consumers drained what little was left of their savings to splurge on holiday purchases.

US Savings Rate Near 70-Year Lows, Matches 2007 Levels

  • It’s back down at 2007 levels, fourth-quarter GDP data showed
  • It can’t fall forever, and ‘as the consumer goes, so goes GDP’