Economists Sharply Cut Forecasts for U.S. Growth

Economic Outlook
Julie Jacobson/AP
By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER

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 percent, according to a survey released Friday by the National Association for Business Economics. That's down from 3.5 percent in a June survey. Growth in 2014 as a whole will be just 1.6 percent, they project, sharply below a previous forecast of 2.5 percent. 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter, down from a 2.9 percent estimate in June. Spending rose just 1 percent 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 (TCS) said Tuesday that sales at stores open for at least a year slipped 0.8 percent 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 (FDO) and clothing retailer the Gap (GPS) 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 percent this year, down from June's estimate of 3 percent. 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 percent said the odds were 10 percent or lower, and more than 90 percent said they were 25 percent or lower.


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maggiemoe1950

The strength of America's economy in the 1920's came to a sudden end in October 1929 - even if the signs of problems had existed before the Wall Street Crash. Suddenly the 'glamour' of the Jazz Age and gangsters disappeared and America was faced with a major crisis that was to impact countries as far away as Weimar Germany - a nation that had built up her economy on American loans.
stockmarket crash of 1929

The huge wealth that appeared to exist in America in the 1920’s was at least partly an illusion.
Do You believe everything Your Goverment is telling You. Just maybe, it's an ILLUSION.

July 13 2014 at 6:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
rrob.smythe

Who gives the economists their bonus money ?

July 12 2014 at 10:57 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rrob.smythe's comment
jdykbpl45

Obama.

July 12 2014 at 11:51 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Valerie

This is the same bunch of "econonomic experts" who were blindsided by the crash in 2008-09. Now, they lie thru their teeth (again) and claim the chances for another "recession" are very low.

Also, they will insist (until the bitter end) that hundreds of thousands of low-wage part-time jobs are "good news" for American workers.

July 11 2014 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ferebot

If Bush or another republican was in the Whitehouse and these numbers came out, just realize that the liberal media would have a field day with it. There is a double-standard. If it’s untouchable Obama in office, the numbers “aren’t that bad.” Wow.

This is the most anti-business administration I can remember. Bad weather? No. Obamacare is to blame. 76% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and they just had their insurance cancelled and replaced by something much more expensive and with higher deductibles and co-pays. They are in shock and won't be buying a car, a home or much of anything else for quite a while. I make $60k a year and with my rent, gas, health insurance ($350/month), car insurance ($25/month from Insurance Panda, thank god), student loans ($300/month), utilities, food/drink, etc., I can barely get by. The massive amounts of tax that NYS/NYC and the feds take out of my paycheck doesn’t help either!!!

Add to that the anti-business, anti-energy, race-baiting, class -warfare policies with pro job-robbing and resource-hogging illegals and you have a democrat utopia. It is a recipe for disaster.

July 11 2014 at 1:19 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ferebot's comment
theycallmeroy3

When Bush said, " heath care cost will bankrupt this country." Was he just kidding?
Most Americans receive their healthcare coverage through their employer, and plenty of people are buying cars.
Of all the arguments against the ACA, this has to be one of the weakest ones.

July 11 2014 at 1:46 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply