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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economists are still in the dark about how a variety of factors — including the stock market slump, the government shutdown and ongoing trade tensions with China — impacted the U.S. economy.

The big picture: Economic indicators are moving to the downside, not the upside.

What we know: Thursday's release of the 4-week delayed U.S. retail sales report saw the biggest month-over-month drop since 2009. It was such a huge miss from the expected rise in spending that some economists are questioning the accuracy of the data.

  • "It appears that worries over the trade war and turmoil in the stock markets impacted consumer behavior more than we expected," the National Retail Federation said in a statement. "There's also a question of whether the government shutdown and resulting delay in collecting data might have made the results less reliable."

"This is against the backdrop of the only data we had, which was the blockbuster employment numbers," Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, told CNBC.

  • December's 222,000 new jobs number was revised lower, but still remains above trend. Though, as we reported last month, jobs growth markdowns show the data may not be breaking out the way initial estimates suggest.

Key components that factor into measures of economic growth are still missing, leaving a gaping hole in economists' estimates for growth.

  • The health of business inventories in December remains unknown after contracting slightly in November, the Commerce Department said yesterday.
  • Factory orders in the U.S. fell more sharply than expected in November, but we still don't know whether that rebounded or fell further in December.
  • December trade data, also delayed, is not expected until the beginning of March.

The bottom line: The data we have so far is pointing to a sluggish end to 2018.

  • Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, tells Axios the lackluster retail sales data could shave as much as 0.7% off of economic growth in the 4th quarter.
  • Economists at J.P. Morgan downgraded their GDP forecast 60 basis points to 2.0% based on the latest retail sales figures, while Barclays slashed its growth forecast to 2.1% from 2.8%, Reuters notes.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO wants to compete against Apple

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger hasn't given up on the idea of the Mac once again using Intel chips, but he acknowledges it will probably be years before he gets that chance.

  • In the meantime, he is focused on powering Windows machines that give Apple CEO Tim Cook a run for his money.

Why it matters: In getting pushed out of the Mac, Intel not only lost a customer but picked up a new rival.