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Blackstone’s Wien Says U.S. Economy Will Be Surprisingly Strong

Blackstone Group LP’s Byron Wien said the U.S. economy will expand 3 percent this year as dwindling joblessness brightens consumers’ moods and companies invest in new equipment.

“The economy is going to surprise on the upside,” Wien said today during the Bloomberg Sovereign Debt Crisis Conference in New York. Exports, business spending and improving consumer attitudes will fuel economic growth in 2012, he said. At the same time, the unemployment rate will drop below 8 percent before year end, he projected.

Conrad DeQuadros, a senior economist at RDQ Economics LLC in New York, who also spoke at the conference, said he expects 3 percent growth as well, driven by capital spending that increases job creation and household purchases.

Julia Coronado, chief economist for North America at BNP Paribas, also speaking on the panel, was less optimistic. She projects growth in the world’s largest economy closer to 2 percent this year.

Cooling economies in Europe and Asia will impede the U.S. expansion, said Coronado. The economy is still undergoing “structural adjustments,” she said. The 0.6 percentage point drop in joblessness over the past four months is mainly due to people leaving the labor force, she said.

The U.S. economy will expand 2.3 percent in 2012, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 72 economists in January.

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