December 14, 2018

Times Reporters Answer Questions About Our G.D.P. Coverage

The Export Outlook

Q. To what extent did economists expect a slump in economic growth following the extended trade war of the last few months? Your article mentions a surge in soybean exports, but I was under the impression that many agricultural exports would suffer as a result of new tariffs both on our part and on the part of our trading partners. — Eli Parker, Chapel Hill, N.C.

A. Almost every economist expects a trade war to drag down economic growth around the world, although its impact will vary widely depending on the country and sector. Over all, the United States — because it has such a large and diversified economy — is probably in a better position to withstand the disruption than other industrialized nations.

As for soybeans, there may have been a temporary surge in exports as buyers rushed to get as many shipments of soybeans delivered before the tariffs went into effect. The result is that most economists expect that surge to reverse itself. Net exports were responsible for about a 1.1 percent increase in G.D.P. last quarter — although a lot of that was offset by declines in inventories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, reported that China canceled $140 million in soybean contracts at the end of June. PATRICIA COHEN


Reconciling Sources

Q. There seems to be a direct factual conflict between two generally reliable sources: The Times and The Wall Street Journal. The Times claims that business investment has not grown but The Journal gives numerical results claiming it has. While it is not surprising to me that The Times and The Journal are on opposing sides in interpreting numbers (since that is why I read both), it is rare that a measurable quantity is reported in opposite ways. Please explain. — Gardner Friedlander, Mequon, Wis.

A. Business investment has definitely grown. Where our story and The Journal’s might seem to disagree is on whether it is growing faster or slower this year than last. The Journal story noted, correctly, that “nonresidential fixed investment,” a measure of overall business investment, has risen more quickly this year. Our story noted, also correctly, that investment in equipment has grown more slowly this year. Our story focused on equipment because it’s the type of investment that the Republican tax law was designed to promote, and because it is less influenced by the volatile oil and gas sector. I stand by that choice of measure, but there is no factual disagreement between us and The Journal (where, I should add, I used to work). BEN CASSELMAN


Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/reader-center/united-states-gross-domestic-product.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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