We already knew the economy really struggled over the first few months of 2015, with March being especially rough. A new report from economists at Macroeconomic Advisers shows just how bad a month it really was.
The forecasting firm, which tracks economic progress on a monthly basis rather than just a quarterly one, now says that GDP fell 1 percent in March. “This was the largest decline since December 2008, when the U.S. economy was in the throes of recession,” its update notes.
The Commerce Department initially estimated that GDP grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.2 percent in the first quarter. An updated report, due May 29, is now expected to show that the economy actually shrank over the first three months of the year. J.P. Morgan economists have lowered their tracking estimate of first-quarter GDP from -0.8 percent to -1.1 percent based on data released over the last two days.
As we’ve written before, though, the downturn isn’t necessarily reason to worry about the fundamental health of the economy, or at least it shouldn’t stoke fears that we’re diving into another recession. As the Macroeconomic Advisers report explains, “A sharp decline in net exports more than accounted for the decline in monthly GDP, as resolution to the West Coast port dispute led to a surge in imports to well above the recent trend. As a result, they write, they believe the one-month plunge “overstates the underlying weakness in the economy.”
That’s not to say the economy is particularly strong, either. Both Macroeconomic Advisers and J.P. Morgan now forecast second-quarter GDP growth to come in at a tepid 2 percent annualized rate.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated this week that President Trump has now signed legislation that will add a total of $4.7 trillion to the national debt between 2017 and 2029. Tax cuts and spending increases account for similar portions of the projected increase, though if the individual tax cuts in the 2017 Republican overhaul are extended beyond their current expiration date at the end of 2025, they would add another $1 trillion in debt through 2029.
Are interest rates destined to move higher, increasing the cost of private and public debt? While many experts believe that higher rates are all but inevitable, historian Paul Schmelzing argues that today’s low-interest environment is consistent with a long-term trend stretching back 600 years.
The chart “shows a clear historical downtrend, with rates falling about 1% every 60 years to near zero today,” says Bloomberg’s Aaron Brown. “Rates do tend to revert to a mean, but that mean seems to be declining.”
Lawmakers are considering three separate bills that are intended to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Here’s an overview of the proposals, from a series of charts produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week. An interesting detail highlighted in another chart: 88% of voters – including 92% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans – want to give the government the power to negotiate prices with drug companies.
From Gallup: “A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup's trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.”