U.S. Economy Surges To A 4.1 Percent Growth Pace In 2nd Quarter A key measure of the economy's health showed a dramatic pickup, which President Trump called "amazing." But some analysts doubt the higher growth rate will last.
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U.S. Economy Surges To A 4.1 Percent Growth Pace In 2nd Quarter

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U.S. Economy Surges To A 4.1 Percent Growth Pace In 2nd Quarter

U.S. Economy Surges To A 4.1 Percent Growth Pace In 2nd Quarter

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NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump has been promising that his economic policies are going to launch our economy into overdrive. He's even predicted the country will achieve about twice the growth rate of recent years, up around 4 percent sustained annual growth.

Now, many economists think we may actually see a blockbuster growth rate like this when we get the latest reading on the gross domestic product, or GDP, later this morning. NPR's Chris Arnold has been following all of this. He joins us now.

Hi, Chris.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: All right. So why is this number so important?

ARNOLD: Well, a strong number coming right now - if it's up well above 3 percent annual growth, that would show that the economy is stronger than it's been in at least a few years. And there's also been some fanfare around this. The president was out yesterday saying, I'm expecting a big number. His treasury secretary was out a few weeks ago saying this is going to be a big number. So you know, there is some anticipation.

And like you said, a lot of economists think that the stars have kind of aligned here over the past few months, and we very well may see a very impressive number. Ian Shepherdson is the chief economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics. He's anticipating a number up above 4.5 percent. That would be very big. Here's how he explains it.

IAN SHEPHERDSON: What's really happened here is a convergence of favorable factors, which, you know, sometimes happens - in any given quarter, anything can happen. And it just means that all the major components of GDP - so that's consumption, business spending, government spending, foreign trades - all those things together have gone in the right direction.

ARNOLD: Of course, the bigger question is, how long can things keep moving in the right direction that quickly?

KING: Right. OK. So when you talk to economists, what do they say about that?

ARNOLD: That's the big question. Of course, you know, if the U.S. economy really did sort of double in growth from 2 percent to 4 percent, that might sound like a small change. But it's really - it would be huge, as they say. I mean, it would mean living standards for many Americans, higher wages, better public services as the government raked in more taxes. But don't get too excited about this because most economists do not expect that to happen past this quarter, certainly growth not at 4 percent or anything like that.

KING: Which is deeply disappointing - why don't they expect more good news?

ARNOLD: You know, a bunch of factors are involved in this report that are sort of one-offs. Just one example of this is there's this kind of perverse situation where we're in this trade fight with China. So ahead of tariffs going into effect on soybeans, China bought tons and tons of soybeans, I mean, so many soybeans that it actually moved the scale on our overall economic growth.

KING: Wow.

ARNOLD: But now that the tariffs are in effect, that's going to reverse, right? And we're going to have a lot fewer, if any, soybeans going to China. So you know, that's going to be a drag instead of a boost - and several other factors like that that just mean that this is probably not going to be repeated.

KING: And what about the tax cut that was passed by Republicans? Is that contributing here?

ARNOLD: It does look like it's giving a boost to consumer spending. But the biggest impact from that happens, you know, right - or happened right when people started seeing these boosts to their paychecks. So that's already happened. We're not going to be getting a big raise in our pay month after month after month. So you know, we've probably seen the big hit from - the big boost from that in growth. So tax cuts, one-time distortions like the soybeans - one of the economists I talked to said this past quarter was like, quote, "a sugar high that probably won't last too long."

KING: (Laughter) NPR's Chris Arnold. Thanks so much, Chris.

ARNOLD: Thanks, Noel.

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