The final reading of US first quarter growth, at first glance, paints a positive picture. The quarterly pace of expansion came in at 3.1% ann. with y/y growth hitting 3.2%, the highest since Q1 2015. But the structure shows clear evidence of the cross currents at work with an upward revision to the inventories build and a relatively better gain from net exports offsetting a moderation of domestic consumption growth.
The improvement we saw in the headline activity numbers in March proved short lived with both industrial production and retail sales taking a renewed dive in April. Auto sector weakness was notably pronounced. Passenger car unit sales are down some 11% from the June 2018 peak, which is unprecedented in a developing economy with a reported growth rate as that of China.
Global activity is on the back foot. World trade has been weakening for months and the economic soft patch has turned into a more prolonged slowdown, certainly in Europe and Asia.