For one thing, the huge positive and negative contributions from net exports and inventories, which more or less cancelled out, were also noteworthy. Experience has told me not to make too much out of the stocks figures, but the sharp decline is in line with the large falls in industrial production in the first quarter. As for next exports, both exports and imports contracted, but imports by a much larger amount on the back of the large demand pullback and oil price declines.
It might also be somewhat of a surprise that government spending rose only 5.7% yoy despite a fiscal deficit, mainly on the back of non-interest expenditures and current transfers, in the first quarter in the run-up to the local elections. Leaving statistical measurement errors aside, this mainly reflects a base effect, i.e. government had opened the coffers in 1Q08 as well.
Looking forward, forecasting 1Q was rather easily, as seen from the convergence of market economists on a 12-13% contraction. 2Q will be much more difficult, as there will be two affects more difficult to estimate: There will be a natural bounceback, amplified by the impact of the fiscal stimulus, especially the tax cuts. Therefore, forecasting 2Q will be more of a guesstimate than anything, and I would not be surprised if forecasts diverged a lot this time around. But for one thing, today's April trade data hints that the contribution of net exports will not be large in 2Q, as imports seem to be stabilizing faster than exports after falling much deeper. However, I would want to wait for the volume figures to say for sure.