Another day, another GDP revision: I don't think new numbers on the 3rd quarter will tell investors much tomorrow

12/21/2009 6:33 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

Stocks and the U.S. dollar rallied today, December 21, on a belief that U.S. economic growth will be so strong in 2010 that even a Federal Reserve interest rate hike around mid-year won’t be enough to derail a recovery.

Tomorrow the market gets a little dose of reality in the form of a second revision of third quarter GDP numbers for the U.S. economy. Last time around, in the first revision, government statisticians revised third quarter growth down to an annual rate of 2.8% from an earlier read of 3.5%.

The consensus on the eve of the report is that this revision will leave the number unchanged. That, of course, leaves the market open to a surprise or a disappointment depending on the direction of any revision.

My best guess?

Based not on any deep analysis of the numbers but on 15 years of watching what data comes in early and what late and seeing how that changes the numbers over time, I don’t think we’re  likely to see much change in either direction. But the most likely revision is down on further changes in inventory reports.

A minor change one way or the other isn’t going to move this market. Investors have already moved on to looking at growth in the first and second quarter of 2010. From that perspective third quarter GDP numbers are ancient history. That quarter closed in September after all.

But I would expect that traders will try to use the number to move stocks and bonds in pre-holiday sessions that often show lower volume that usual. I think that’s especially likely if the growth number is a little light.

Bad news after a solid up day near the close of the year has the power to move stocks lower as the investors who made profits the day before decide that selling to take profits is the best strategy.

I wouldn’t make much of the number or the reaction to it. The economic data will eventually show whether or not the market’s current optimism about economic growth in 2010 is justified.

Just not this data.
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