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First quarter GDP report disappoints

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

U.S. GDP grew at an annual pace of 2.5 percent in the first quarter, falling short of the 2.8 percent that economists predicted and disappointing investors. But should we be feeling so pessimistic about the report?

"We set up a lot of false expectations for ourselves before an announcement like GDP," said the Guardian's Heidi Moore. "Two-point-five percent is significantly better than what we had at the end of last year, which was a meager 0.4 percent -- we really thought we were on the edge of recession."

"However, there are other measures that we should be looking at. For instance, one of the reasons GDP grew so much was because more consumers are spending. That sounds great, but what we know is, right now consumers are spending by borrowing, so they're just adding to their credit card debt."

"It's better than we had before," said the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy. "But the thing is, there's so many technical factors that lead to the choppiness between every quarter."

Reddy broke it down even further.

"If you look at where we are over the course of a year, we've been basically growing 2 percent, which is what we've done in 2010, 2011, 2012...If you look back at it, we're at this depressingly slow pace of growth and we're probably going to remain there for a little while longer before we have much of a chance of an upturn into the 3 to 4 percent growth that will actually signal a clear, strong recovery."

Listen to the full audio above for more analysis.

#Longreads

The Weekly Wrappers offers their #longreads suggestions for the weekend.

Heidi Moore writes:

  • A week after the Boston attacks, we're still combing through what we know, and there's been a lot of self-punishment by the media on getting things wrong in the heat of reporting. This New York Times story makes a good point that even authorities get things wrong, and feed that information to reporters. It's a good reminder that we should be slowing down the news cycle for no other reason that often, in a crisis, breaking "news" is not actually news -- it's junk information we'll have to correct later. Journalism is about presenting the world as it is, so we should be asking not just what the experts know, but how they know what they know. Very often, they're guessing.
  • One of my longreads is actually embedded in a tweet: an Atlantic article about the case for intervening in Syria. What makes it interesting is that it was retweeted by a division of the State Department, indicating a pretty high-level diplomatic machinery is paying attention. As journalists, we get wrapped up in news that moves fast and forget about news that moves slowly, like the Syrian conflict. This week, I attended the Overseas Press Club awards, which rewards reporters and organizations that do brilliant reporting from war zones; Syria was one of the big themes, and many who had survived the conflict there said it was the worst armed conflict they had seen in decades. Yet, most of us barely even read one story on it a week. It deserves more attention.
  • The last read is a great story, also from the Atlantic, about the future of oil. It's well-written and very, very bracing.

Sudeep Reddy suggests:

  • Don't try this at home or anywhere else: the science of smuggling cocaine inside a body (as part of the drug trade).

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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I guess 2.5% GDP growth sounds better than nothing. But a very small consolation when you've been RIF'd to get to those improved numbers.

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