The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
) -- Preliminary estimates indicate GDP growth was a disappointing 2.8% in the fourth quarter -- analysts had expected 3.2%.
A huge jump in inventories accounted for 65% of all growth, indicating perilous overstocking. Consumers are expected to pull back a bit in the first quarter owing to mounting credit card debt.
Overstocking in the fourth quarter plus slower consumer spending, indicate growth will likely be less than 2% in the first quarter of 2012 -- my forecast is 1.8%.
Additional imports continued to be a big drag on growth -- subtracting about three quarters of a percentage point, and more than additional exports added to growth.
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Jobs growth lags GDP and will likely remain near December's encouraging level when the January data comes out next Friday. However, look for jobs growth to slow and drag on Obama's popularity during the critical spring and summer campaigning season.
General elections are generally decided by Labor Day -- those polls usually indicate the winner as the ever-longer campaign season hardens voters' attitudes about candidates by fall.
Professor Peter Morici, of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, is a recognized expert on economic policy and international economics. Prior to joining the university, he served as director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission. He is the author of 18 books and monographs and has published widely in leading public policy and business journals, including the Harvard Business Review and Foreign Policy. Morici has lectured and offered executive programs at more than 100 institutions, including Columbia University, the Harvard Business School and Oxford University. His views are frequently featured on CNN, CBS, BBC, FOX, ABC, CNBC, NPR, NPB and national broadcast networks around the world.