Chart of the week: Inventory build-up a major contributor to US GDP

Summary: Inventory build-up was a major contribution to Q3 GDP

What the chart shows: The chart shows the contribution of the change in inventories to US quarterly annualised GDP growth

Why is the chart important: US Q3 GDP growth was surprisingly strong at 2.8% (quarterly annualised rate; in the UK, we would say 0.7%). A breakdown of the numbers shows that 0.8 percentage points was due to an accelerated inventory build-up. This was almost certainly was involuntary. Over time, the contribution of inventories change to output growth tends to cancel out. While a positive contribution for three consecutive quarters or longer is not unheard of, it is rare. Bear in mind that what matters is not the absolute change in inventories, but the change in the change. In other words, a slower pace of inventory accumulation means a drag on GDP growth. The conclusion is that the current quarter and probably the next as well, will see a possibly substantial deduction from growth due to inventories.