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Business / Finance / Markets / Money

The Investment Boom…or Not

The Investment Boom…or Not

Fixed nonresidential investment is rising at a rapid clip. However, there are some nuances to the headline story.

Figure 1: Nonresidential fixed investment, in billions of Ch.2012$ (blue), and in billions of dollars (red), both SAAR, both on log-scale. Source: BEA, 2018Q2 2nd release.

Some sizable portion of recent investment is associated with the mining/drilling/fracking phenomenon.

Figure 2: Contributions to overall nonresidential fixed investment growth of structures investment in mining (red), and all else (blue). Source: BEA, 2018Q2 2nd release, and author’s calculations.

For the moment, investment looks like it should be sustained. However, should oil prices decline, or the spigot of cash diminish (see McLean/NYT today), then the support coming from this sector might disappear. (This article discusses light tight oil (LTO) sector cash flow, financing, and prospective capital investment.)

In addition, investment in equipment, while rising overall, is declining in the industrial sector.

Figure 3: Contributions to overall equipment investment growth of industrial equipment investment (red), and all else (blue). Source: BEA, 2018Q2 2nd release, and author’s calculations.

Right now, increased investment demand coming from the accelerator is more than offsetting the drag coming from higher policy uncertainty. As the effects of the tax cuts wear off, we should expect the balance to shift.

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