US GDP crushes estimates, thanks to consumer spending

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The US economy grew by 3.2% in the third quarter — better than expected and initially reported — according to the second estimate of gross domestic product, released Tuesday.

Economists had forecast that the value of every thing produced and every service rendered during the quarter rose at a 3% annualized rate. Last month, GDP was reported at 2.9%, based on incomplete data.

Consumer spending was stronger than previously estimated, and it was the main reason overall economic growth was revised higher. Personal consumption grew by 2.8%, up from 2.1% in the Commerce Department’s initial estimate.

These upward revisions to growth support the case for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at its meeting in December, and make that decision more likely.

Tuesday’s report also showed more positive contributions from exports. The preliminary report showed that much of the growth recorded in Q3 came from stronger soybean exports, which surged as poor harvests in the largest South American exporting countries gave US producers a gap to fill.

This report included the first snapshot of corporate profits in Q3, and showed that companies earnings increased $133.8 billion, up 6.6% from a decrease by $12.5 billion (-0.6%) in Q2. Companies on the benchmark S&P 500 index reported six straight quarters of declining profits through Q2, but analysts expected a return to earnings growth in the third quarter.

The Commerce Department will release a third estimate of these data on December 22 and annual revisions in 2017.

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