Economic growth strongest in 2 years
But economists say 2.9% rate likely won’t continue
WASHINGTON — Don’t expect much more from the U.S. economy this year — it may have already peaked.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, grew at annual rate of 2.9 percent in the July-September quarter, shaking off a lackluster first half and accelerating to its strongest growth in two years, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
The improvement was powered by a rebound in exports and a decision by businesses to restock their shelves.
The latest figure was double the 1.4 percent rate in the second quarter. The details, however, point to signs that the pace is unlikely to last. Stocks slipped Friday despite the government reporting faster economic growth.
The rise in exports was fueled by a surge in shipments of soybeans to South America. That’s probably not going to happen again. The strength in inventory rebuilding also looks likely to fade in coming quarters.
Moreover, consumer spending growth slowed from a breakneck pace in the second quarter. Busi- ness investment was barely positive, still trying to recover from sharp cutbacks in the energy industry after oil prices plunged.
Home construction also
NEW YORK — Stocks ended slightly lower Friday, The Dow Jones industrial average fell 8.49 points, or less than 0.1 percent, at 18,161.19. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gave up 6.63 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,126.41. The Nasdaq composite shed 25.87 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,190.10. contracted for a second quarter, although economists believe that setback will be temporary.
Gregory Daco, head of U.S. Macroeconomics at Oxford Economics, said the third-quarter results “may be as good as it gets in 2016.”
He forecasts slower growth of around 2 percent in the current October-December period.
“Going forward, we expect a modest expansion in economic activity, but we note the economy may be in a fragile equilibrium,” Daco wrote in a research note.
Still, the better-than-expected GDP reading for the third quarter keeps the Federal Reserve on track to boost interest rates next month. Economists believe a rate hike at next week’s meeting is unlikely so close to the U.S. presidential election.
The Commerce Department report represents one of the last major economic reports to be issued before American voters go to the polls on Nov. 8.
Democrats hailed the GDP rebound after three straight quarters of anemic growth averaging around 1 percent. But Republicans said the new figure did not change their view that the country’s current policies need to be changed.
“Growth hasn’t risen above 3 percent for a full year in any year of the Obama presidency,” said Dan Kowalski, deputy policy director for the campaign of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee.