Second Half 2011 U.S. Growth Rebound Intact, Economists Say
Slowdowns in consumer spending and employment will prove temporary, giving way to a U.S. growth rebound in the second half of 2011, economists surveyed by Bloomberg News said.
After growing at a 2.3 percent annual pace this quarter, the world’s largest economy will expand at a 3.2 percent rate from July through December, according to the median forecast of 67 economists polled from June 1 to June 8.
Rising exports, stable fuel prices, record levels of cash in company coffers and easier lending rules will be enough to overcome the damage done by one-time events like poor weather and the disaster in Japan, economists said. Nonetheless, the current slackening means Federal Reserve policy makers will wait even longer to raise interest rates next year, the survey shows.
“The economic headwinds are well known, but if you look at the tailwinds, they are still pretty strong,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts. “There are a lot of reasons to be fairly upbeat about the recovery. Growth will pick up in the second half.”
The projected gain in second-quarter gross domestic product is down a percentage point from the 3.3 percent estimated last month. At the same time, this month’s forecast for the second half of the year was little changed from May’s prediction of an average 3.35 percent.
For all of 2011, the U.S. will grow 2.5 percent, down from the 2.7 percent gain projected last month. The rate of growth will accelerate to 3 percent for the next two years, the survey showed.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has slid about 5 percent from its 2011 high on April 29, reflecting the cooling economy. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has declined to 3 percent from 3.29 percent in the same period. Economists forecast the yield will rise to 3.65 percent in the fourth quarter, down from a prior estimate of 3.8 percent.
A slowdown in hiring is among reasons for short-term pessimism. Employers boosted payrolls by 54,000 workers in May after a 232,000 increase the prior month, figures from the Labor Department showed last week. The jobless rate climbed to 9.1 percent from 9 percent in April.
“Credit conditions continue to improve and labor income is growing, even with a bit of a pause in May, and we think that gives the economy enough momentum to carry us though the soft patch,” said Samuel Coffin, an economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut.
Companies had a record $1.91 trillion in cash and other liquid assets at the end of the first quarter, according to Fed data issued yesterday. The money will probably be used to boost capital investment and hiring later this year once concern over the slowdown dissipates, said IHS’s Behravesh.
Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, will grow at an average 2.95 percent in the second half of the year after increasing at a 2.1 percent rate this quarter, according to the survey median.
Auto sales slumped last month, in part reflecting a shortage of vehicles from Japanese manufacturers following the earthquake and tsunami. Cars and light trucks sold at an 11.8 million annual rate, down 11 percent from 13.1 million in April, according to industry data.
Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said this week that while the economy is the automaker’s main concern, he expects conditions to improve in the second half of the year.
“Our biggest concern of course is that the economy has slowed a little bit from where we thought it would be,” Mulally said in a June 7 Bloomberg Television interview. “Having said that, most of the economists believe that it’s going to start picking up in the second half with everything that’s been put in place, both monetarily and fiscally.”
Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, said its global sales will rise 50 percent by 2015 to 8 million vehicles a year as it delivers more small cars and boosts revenue in Asia.
Increasing overseas demand is another reason for optimism, economists said. Exports climbed to a record in April, Commerce Department figures showed yesterday, reflecting a 10 percent drop in the value of the dollar over the past 12 months, according to a Fed gauge, and expansions in emerging markets.
Forecasts for a second-half rebound are in synch with Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s views. Bernanke this week said growth is likely to pick up as fuel prices recede and disruptions in parts supplies dissipate with Japanese factories recovering.
“Overall, the economic recovery appears to be continuing at a moderate pace, albeit at a rate that is both uneven across sectors and frustratingly slow from the perspective of millions of unemployed and underemployed workers,” Bernanke said in a June 7 speech in Atlanta.
Concern over the pace of improvement in the labor market means the central bank’s first rate increase will take place in the second quarter of 2012, rather than in the first three months of the year, according to the survey median.
Not all economists are convinced the slowdown will be short-lived.
“The labor market is disappointing,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. in New York, who cut his GDP forecasts for each of the last three quarters of the year. “Small businesses are increasingly worried about the future and that is where the job growth is going to have to come from.” The dearth of jobs last month “really caught my attention and that made me think we were experiencing more deep- seated problems,” he said.
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