BEA reports 3Q2016 GDP growth is highest in 2 years.
From the shadows cast by the Presidential Election earlier this month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a big “surprise” during the end of October. However, coverage of this news was relegated to the back page due to the election. That news was reporting that the first estimate of third quarter GDP growth came in at an annualized rate of 2.9%, the highest reading in two years (full report). Following the election, stock markets rallied to set new all-time highs and interest rates spiked considerably, with the 10-year treasury moving from 1.82% to 2.32%, a 27% increase. While much of the election’s impact on markets has since been discussed, the underlying status of potential growth (irrespective of the outcome of the election) is probably the bigger story.
While first estimates by the BEA are notoriously prone to error and likely to be revised, quarterly financial results of many publicly traded companies seem to be equally aligned as are recent readings of consumer health and sentiment. So for the time being, the market expects the US economy to grow at a more robust pace than the “slow” sub 2% expectations held just a month ago. For commercial real estate investors this is not new news. Rents and occupancies have been growing for years, but the reality of operating in a rising interest rate environment is a new phenomenon. Assuming the present situation holds, it is rational to expect treasury rates and bank lending rates to drift upwards, occasionally in big steps for much of 2017. This should not cause any great calamity, but upward movements in cap rates should be expected in some markets and asset classes. Losses from cap rate reversion will be offset, at least partially, by continued growth in net operating incomes. However, this is more of a long term effect.
Recent third quarter results from multiple real estate data providers, including REIS, CoStar, and NCREIF, were all positive with some slowing in the rate of appreciation and rental rate growth. If these growth expectations hold, it is quite possible for 2017, and even possibly in 4th fourth quarter 2016, to show that we will experience much faster growth. There is some evidence that the election and its uncertainty was holding back economic growth in 2016 more than previously thought. With this uncertainty gone, and with initial first impressions that a Trump presidency will be pro-growth, it is possible that pent up demand may be released. Still, the transition will not be complete until January, and even then it will take time to see what policy changes and enactments will actually transpire. Thus, cautious optimism is all that can be warranted today. Currently, the stock markets are firmly in this mindset, with growth expectations overpowering fear.
The specific impact by the Trump administration on commercial real estate remains to be seen. Infrastructure spending, tax cuts, and regulatory roll backs all portend signify positive results. Of course, an unpredicted increase in inflation and higher interest rates could mollify these impacts if too unbalanced. Although rents have paced ahead of overall inflation for the past several years, by nature, this trend should reverse itself over time. So celebrate the New Year as most expectations looks positive for the near future following the election, but be wary of too much of a good thing.