GDP only grew 1.5% in Q3 as consumer weakens, CNBC tracker shows

The economic outlook is getting more dour for the third quarter, with growth now projected at just 1.5%, according to a projection by CNBC and Moody’s Analytics.Weak consumer spending and inventory data caused economists responding to the Rapid Update tracker to lower their collective GDP projections by one-tenth of a percentage point to the lowest level yet for Q3.Core retail sales fell by 0.3% in September, the first drop since February and a sign that the resilience of the consumer could be waning. At the same time, business inventories were flat for August, missing Wall Street expectations of 0.3% growth.The disappointing data caused Goldman Sachs to cut its tracking estimate by 0.3 percent points to 1.7%. HFE represented the top of the estimates at 2%, while Oxford Economics was at the other extreme with a 1.2% forecast.The CNBC/Moody’s tracker is somewhat more pessimistic than other gauges.For instance, the Atlanta Fed’s GDP Now measure puts growth at 1.8%, actually up one-tenth of a point following Wednesday’s sales and inventory data. The New York Fed’s Nowcast is at 2% but hasn’t been updated since Oct. 11.If the Rapid Update projection holds and is correct, it will mark only the second time since Q2 of 2016 that GDP fell below 2%.┬áThe projections come during an unusually high level of uncertainty, with many economists warning of a potential recession on the horizon as weak global growth bleeds into the U.S. and the ongoing U.S.-China tariff battle saps confidence and business investment.According to the New York Fed, chances of a recession over the next 12 months at nearly 35%, near its highest level since April 2008 as the U.S. was in the midst of the financial crisis. The indicator looks solely at the relationship between the 3-month and 10-year Treasury yields; when the former rises above the latter, it has been a reliable recession predictor over the past 50 years.Other measures, though, are not as dire.Oil prices, historically another key yardstick for recession probabilities, have stayed in check. No recession going back to the early 1980s has started without a price jump of at least 90%.Another more recession measure called the Sahm Indicator also sees basically a zero chance of recession. The measure looks at the three-month moves of the unemployment rate and says a 0.5 percentage point rise over that time is a warning sign. Unemployment is currently at a 50-year low.”Getting the yield curve to un-invert, either with higher long-term rates or lower short-term ones, would make it 3 for 3 in the plus camp. That’s the wall of worry this market has to climb just now,” Nick Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, said in a note.

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