US Economic Forecasts Remain Modest Despite Stock Market Rally

Donald Trump’s election victory last month has persuaded Mr. Market that US economic growth is destined to accelerate. The reasoning for the recent surge in the equity market: a pro-growth agenda is expected for 2017 and beyond, courtesy of a policy mix of corporate tax cuts, reducing regulation, and increases in infrastructure spending. Yet economic forecasts at the moment are calling for a relatively modest pace for the US macro trend in the near term. In fact, a number of GDP estimates point to a slower rate of growth following the 3.2% rise in GDP in this year’s third quarter. That could change, of course, once a Trump administration is running the show in the new year. At the moment, however, economic projections from various sources have yet to confirm the stock market’s recent burst of optimism.

A poll published last week noted that economic forecasts haven’t changed much since Trump’s election. “The outlook for growth and inflation in a Reuters poll also remains muted despite a Wall Street surge, underscoring a wide gap between how the economy is expected to perform by analysts and what ebullient financial markets are currently pricing in,” the news organization reported on Dec. 8.


For some perspective, let’s take a closer look at recent GDP forecasts, starting with the current Q4 nowcast via the Atlanta Fed. The bank’s GDPNow model is projecting (as of Dec. 9) that growth will ease to 2.6% in the last three months of 2016—down from 3.2% in Q3.

The Wall Street Journal’s economic survey for December sees Q4 GDP growth decelerating even more, to 2.3%, based on the average prediction. The new year doesn’t look much better. The forecast calls for a mild pickup in economic output to a 2.5% rate by 2017’s Q3. Nonetheless, the main takeaway is that economists expect that US growth will remain relatively subdued for 2017 relative to this year’s 3.2% pace in Q3.

The economic team at Wells Fargo emphasized last week that the US economy is on “solid footing” going into 2017, but GDP growth still looks relatively muted vs. Q3’s pace. Although the firm expects “consumer spending growth on continued job and wage gains and improved business spending as the energy drag dissipates,” the firm’s outlook for GDP in the coming quarters is on track to remain in the low-2% range.

Econometric estimates offer a similar narrative for 2017. One shop——is looking for US GDP growth to remain no higher than 2.0% in the next three quarters.

Meanwhile, the National Association for Business Economists (NABE) reports in its December survey of members that “expectations for the pace of economic growth are largely unchanged from those in the September 2016 Outlook Survey.”

The panel’s median forecast of 2.2% growth in real GDP from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the fourth quarter of 2017 is unchanged from the September survey. The annualized growth rate forecasted for 2017 inched downward to 2.2% in the current survey from 2.3% in September.

Forecasts are subject to change, of course. The question is how or if the outlook for relatively muted US growth will evolve? Much depends on the priorities of the incoming Trump administration.

“If protectionist policies are pursued, growth in global trade and real GDP will likely be slower and inflation will probably be higher—a recipe for stagflation,” IHS chief economist Nariman Behravesh tells Supply Chain Management Review. “If more pragmatic and pro-growth policies are pursued, then economic growth, inflation and interest rates will all be higher—an outcome that will benefit most but not all economies.”

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