The March trade release came in close to consensus (although suggesting higher 2010Q1 growth ). Comparing the advance release figures on real goods imports against the Jan-Mar figures from the trade release doesn’t suggest a big revision (about 7.5 billion Ch.05$ on SAAR). I thought it would be interesting to see if there were any indications that American consumers were weaning themselves off of foreign consumer goods, using the 2010Q1 Advance release figures.
One of the main questions surrounding rebalancing the world economy centers on to what extent, and how, consumption resumes in the United States   . Figure 1 plots non-services, non-auto consumption (proxied by the total real consumption minus real services consumption and real auto consumption expenditures), and consumer goods imports, over the 2006-2010 period.
Figure 1: Non-services, non-auto consumption (blue, left axis), and consumer goods imports (red, right axis), both in Ch.2005$ SAAR. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray, assumes recession ends 2009Q2. Non-services, non-auto consumption approximated by subtracting services and auto expenditures from total consumption. Source: BEA, 2010Q1 GDP advance release, NBER, and author’s calculations.
The key take-aways: (1) non-services, non-auto consumption is 5.0% lower (in log terms) than it was at its peak in 07Q4; (2) consumer goods plus auto imports are 8.0% lower than its level in 07Q4; (3) while the former has decreased 147.6 billion Ch.05$ SAAR, while the latter has dropped 36.4 billion Ch.05$
Using the correlation between the two that held over the 2006Q1-08Q2 period, there is no evidence that by 2010Q1 a shift had occurred in the share of domestic sourcing of ex-auto goods consumption. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t any shifting – merely that with the data available, no shift could be detected (the auto consumption series measured in 2005$ only extends back to 2006Q1).