The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Economists cut US growth forecasts, but remain optimistic economy will recover from grim 1Q

  • Print

WASHINGTON - U.S. business economists have sharply cut their growth forecasts for the April-June quarter and 2014, though they remain optimistic that the economy will rebound from a dismal first quarter.

The average forecast for growth in the second quarter has fallen to 3 per cent, according to a survey released Friday by the National Association for Business Economics. That's down from 3.5 per cent in a June survey. Growth in 2014 as a whole will be just 1.6 per cent, they project, sharply below a previous forecast of 2.5 per cent. If accurate, this year's growth would be the weakest since the Great Recession.

The lower 2014 forecast largely reflects the impact of a sharp contraction in the first quarter. The economy shrank 2.9 per cent at an annual rate, the biggest drop in five years. That decline will weigh heavily on the economy this year, even if growth resumes and stays at 3 per cent or above, as most economists expect.

The economists reduced their second-quarter forecast largely because they expect consumers spent at a much more modest pace. They now expect spending will grow just 2.3 per cent at an annual rate in the second quarter, down from a 2.9 per cent estimate in June. Spending rose just 1 per cent in the first quarter, the smallest increase in four years, a sign consumers are still reluctant to spend freely.

Many retail chains are feeling the pain. The Container Store said Tuesday that sales at stores open for at least a year slipped 0.8 per cent in the first quarter.

"We are experiencing a retail 'funk'," Kip Tindell, chief executive of The Container Store, said Tuesday. "While consumers are buying homes and automobiles and even high ticket furniture, most segments of retail are, like us, seeing more challenging sales than we had hoped early in 2014."

Family Dollar Stores and clothing retailer the Gap also reported lower sales this week.

Another factor weighed heavily on the first quarter: A big drop in exports widened the nation's trade deficit and accounted for about half the contraction. Exports picked up in May and trade is unlikely to be as big a drag in the second quarter. But the NABE survey found that economists expect exports will now rise just 2.5 per cent this year, down from June's estimate of 3 per cent. The weaker figures reflect sluggish economies in Europe and slower growth in China.

The NABE did a special survey after the government announced the dismal figures at the end of June. The group typically surveys economists quarterly.

Despite the downgrades, the survey underscores that economists are mostly optimistic about the rest of this year. Analysts largely blame the first quarter shrinkage on temporary factors, such as harsh winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory restocking. When companies restock their inventories at a weaker pace, it slows demand for factory goods and lowers production.

Jack Kleinhenz, president of the association and chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said that most other recent economic data, particularly regarding hiring, has been positive. Employers have added an average of 230,000 jobs a month this year, one of the best stretches since the recession.

In addition, consumers are more confident and government spending cuts and tax increases are exerting less of a drag. In 2013, a Social Security tax cut expired and government spending cuts were implemented. The combined effects slowed growth by 1.5 percentage points, economists estimate.

"Many of the fundamentals are there for growth," Kleinhenz said.

As a result, the 50 economists who responded to the survey see the chances of a recession this year or next as pretty low. Sixty per cent said the odds were 10 per cent or lower, and more than 90 per cent said they were 25 per cent or lower.

___

Contact Chris Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Cheap summer weekends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.
  • June 24, 2012 - 120624  -  Amusement riders on the last day of The Ex Sunday June 24, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the city grant mosquito buffer zones for medical reasons only?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google