Gross fixed capital formation

Gross fixed capital formation

Gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) is a macroeconomic concept used in official national accounts since the 1930s.

Concept and data

The statistical aggregate of GFCF is a measure of the net new investment by enterprises in the domestic economy in fixed capital assets during an accounting period.

While it is not possible to measure the value of the total fixed capital stock very accurately, it is possible to obtain a fairly reliable measure of the trend in "new" fixed investment.

Usually statistics departments provide quarterly and annual data on GFCF, which function as economic indicators of the level of business activity.

Often detailed breakdowns are available on request for GFCF, by type of asset and economic sector (for example, residential buildings versus non-residential buildings, or government sector versus private sector).

Obviously GFCF is "not" a measure of "total" investment, because all kinds of "financial" assets are excluded. If, for example, one examines a company balance sheet, it is easy to see that fixed assets are only one component of the total annual capital outlay.


GFCF is a flow value. It is usually defined as the total value of additions to fixed assets by resident producer enterprises, "less disposals" of fixed assets during the quarter or year, "plus" additions to the value of non-produced assets (such as discoveries of mineral deposits, or land improvements).

Normally these assets are tangible assets, but in some cases they are intangible intellectual property including artwork and software. The debate continues about the exact definitional boundaries. The main asset types are plant & machinery, equipment, vehicles, land-improvements and buildings.

Some important assets are typically excluded from the official measure of GFCF. These include armaments and military installations, the value of repair work, the value of standing timber, farm animals, and durable household equipment.

Detailed standard definitions of GFCF are provided by the United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA) and the IMF Balance of Payments system. The definitions used by the US Bureau for Economic Analysis for the National Income & Product Accounts (NIPA's) are very similar.

GFCF is called "gross" because the measure does not make any adjustments for the depreciation of assets. In some ways, this terminology is confusing, because, in substance, the aim is to measure the value of the "net" additions to the fixed capital stock. In other words, it is the "net capital formation" that is of interest. Accidental damage and destruction are disregarded in the valuation, but tax levies and acquisition fees are included in GFCF. So it is the "all-up" costs of fixed investment that are being measured.

It is sometimes difficult to draw an exact statistical boundary between GFCF and intermediate consumption, insofar as the expenditure concerns alterations to fixed assets owned. In some cases, this expenditure can refer to new fixed investment, in others only to operating costs relating to the maintenance or repair of fixed assets.

Time series

GFCF time series data is often used to analyse the trends in investment activity over time, deflating or reflating the series using a price index. But it is also used to obtain alternative measures of the fixed capital stock. This stock could be measured at surveyed "book value", but the problem there is that the book values are often a mixture of valuations such as historic cost, current replacement cost, current sale value and scrap value. That is, there is no uniform valuation.

Using the alternative of the so-called "perpetual inventory method", one begins with a benchmark asset figure and then cumulates GFCF year by year (or quarter by quarter), while deducting depreciation according to some method, all data being adjusted for price inflation using a capital expenditure price index. Sometimes statisticians calculate "average service lives" for assets as a basis for valuation and depreciation estimates.

Econometricians acknowledge that the value of fixed assets is almost impossible to measure accurately, because of the difficulty of obtaining a standard valuation for all assets. By implication, it is also almost impossible to obtain a reliable measure of the aggregate rate of profit on capital invested, i.e. the rate of return. Arguably though, the data do provide an "indicator" of the trend over time.


*NIPA []
*OECD []
*Canberra Stock Conference [,2340,en_2825_500246_1876351_1_1_1_1,00.html]
*Oskar Morgenstern, On the Accuracy of Economic Observations, 2nd edition, Princeton University Press, 1965.
*Hill, TP (1979), Profits and Rates of Return. OECD, Paris.

ee also

*Intermediate consumption
*Fixed investment
*Fixed capital
*Capital formation
* Investment-specific technological progress

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • fixed capital formation — An investment over a given period, as used in the national income accounts. It consists primarily of investment in manufacturing and housing. Gross fixed capital formation is the total amount of expenditure on investment, while net fixed capital… …   Big dictionary of business and management

  • Capital formation — Gross capital formation in % of gross domestic product in world economy Capital formation is a concept used in macroeconomics, national accounts and financial economics. Occasionally it is also used in corporate accounts. It can be defined… …   Wikipedia

  • Fixed capital — is a concept in economics and accounting, first theoretically analysed in some depth by the economist David Ricardo. It refers to any kind of real or physical capital (fixed asset) that is not used up in the production of a product and is… …   Wikipedia

  • Fixed investment — in economics refers to investment in fixed capital, i.e. tangible capital goods (real means of production or residential buildings), or to the replacement of depreciated capital goods. Thus, fixed investment is investment in physical assets such… …   Wikipedia

  • Capital accumulation — Most generally, the accumulation of capital refers simply to the gathering or amassment of objects of value; the increase in wealth; or the creation of wealth. Capital can be generally defined as assets invested with the expectation that their… …   Wikipedia

  • Gross domestic product — GDP redirects here. For other uses, see GDP (disambiguation). Not to be confused with Gross national product or Gross domestic income. CIA World Factbook 2005 figures of total nominal GDP (top) compared to PPP adjusted GDP (bottom) …   Wikipedia

  • Economic history of Portugal — This article covers the economic history of Portugal.Portugal was once one of the largest and most powerful political and economic powers in the world. Since the 16th century to the end of the Estado Novo regime in 1974, Portugal s dominions were …   Wikipedia

  • Depreciation — Not to be confused with Deprecation. Depreciation refers to two very different but related concepts: the decrease in value of assets (fair value depreciation), and the allocation of the cost of assets to periods in which the assets are used… …   Wikipedia

  • Intermediate consumption — is an economic concept used in national accounts, such as the United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA) and the US National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA). Conceptually, the aggregate intermediate consumption is equal to the amount… …   Wikipedia

  • Aggregate demand — This article is about a concept in macroeconomics. For microeconomic demand aggregated over consumers, see Demand curve. In macroeconomics, aggregate demand (AD) is the total demand for final goods and services in the economy (Y) at a given time… …   Wikipedia