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The U.S. economy grew faster than expected in the third quarter, growing at its fastest rate in nearly two years. This is the latest sign of the country’s economic resilience despite high interest rates.
Strong consumer spending was the main driver of a 4.9 percent annual increase in gross domestic product, according to preliminary figures from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
That was a jump of 2.1 percent in the second quarter and the strongest reading since the fourth quarter of 2021. Economists had, on average, predicted a rate of 4.3 percent.
Several economists said that while they expect growth to slow from the record pace of the third quarter, the overall outlook remains positive.
“The underlying story is one of a resilient consumer supported by a strong labor market,” said Eric Winograd, director of developed markets economic research at AllianceBernstein. “As long as the consumer remains strong, the economy as a whole will remain strong.”
Consumer spending rose at an annual rate of 4 percent, up from just 0.8 percent in the second quarter, with solid growth in both the goods and services sectors.
Corporate spending on inventories, which tends to be volatile, also provided a significant boost in the third quarter, which is expected to weaken in the fourth quarter.
Tom Simons, an economist at Jefferies, said: “Inventories set a high bar that will be difficult to beat and with student loan payments resuming, it would be shocking if we saw sustained growth of this kind in the future.” A repayment moratorium for student loan borrowers ended this month.
The data comes as the Federal Reserve prepares for a meeting next week to decide on interest rates. The central bank is trying to bring inflation back toward its 2 percent target through higher interest rates without causing a drastic deterioration in the economy.
The GDP numbers are unlikely to have a drastic impact on next week’s decision because they are retrospective compared to monthly data such as inflation and payrolls.
The Fed is widely expected to keep interest rates at their highest level in 22 years to give policymakers more time to assess the impact of its previous rate hikes and recent events such as a sharp selloff in bond markets.
Still, the growth data is another reminder of the economy’s longer-term strength and supports expectations that interest rates will remain high for an extended period. Longer-term 10- and 30-year government bonds, which have sold off dramatically in recent weeks, are particularly sensitive to growth expectations.
Strong GDP overall numbers can also influence consumer and business sentiment, which can have a domino effect on behavior and inflation expectations.
Initial market reactions to the GDP data were muted, with slight declines in Treasury yields and a slight rise in stock market futures immediately after the release.
The yield on 10-year government bonds fell by 0.04 percentage points to 4.91 percent. Expectations for Fed policy in the futures market remained stable, with investors betting that there is just a 27 percent chance the Fed will raise rates again this year.
Some sectors of the economy, particularly the real estate sector, were affected by the interest rate hike. Existing home sales fell at their slowest pace in 13 years in September due to rising mortgage rates.
Consumer spending has been much more resilient this year than most economists expected, with strong retail sales earlier this week helping to briefly push the 10-year Treasury yield to a 16-year high.
Sophia Drossos, economist at Point72 Asset Management, said consumers were helped by a combination of rising wages and slowing inflation.
“The pace of consumption is likely to slow. . . [but] If we continue to see a decline in inflation while the labor market is healthy, consumers will continue to be on solid footing.”
Thursday’s numbers are based on preliminary data. The BEA will release a second estimate late next month and a third number in December.
Source : www.ft.com