Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Business
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

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

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 file photo, a cashier rings up a sale at a Sears store, in Las Vegas. 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. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Enlarge Image

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 file photo, a cashier rings up a sale at a Sears store, in Las Vegas. 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. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

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

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
The First World War at 100

Social Media

Canadian Mortgage Rates