Friday's report showing surprising strength in the U.S. economy was full of beans.
Soybeans, that is.
A bigger than expected 2.9 percent annual growth rate in the third quarter was cheered by analysts and investors as a sign that a moribund economy is finally picking up speed. The report, the last read on the U.S. economy's pace of growth before the election, was also seen as giving Democrats a solid talking point about the Obama administration's economic policies.
But a closer look at the numbers show that the economy may not be as strong as the headlines indicate.
Some nine-tenths of a percentage point of the gain came from a surge in soybean exports, much of which was shipped to China, an event that won't be repeated in coming quarters.
That may not sound like a lot. But nine-tenths of a percent of an $18.6 trillion economy works out to $167 billion. That's roughly the size of Iowa's annual economic output.