Wall Street is bummed the Delta wave has you spending less

Wall Street NY summer
People walk past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street on July 15, 2021 in New York City.

  • Goldman Sachs and Bank of America both cut GDP forecasts. The reason: not enough spending.
  • Americans’ spending slid more than expected in July, starving the recovery of its biggest booster.
  • Still, both banks see growth rebounding as the Delta wave weakens and Americans get back to shopping.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Wall Street is tempering its hopes for the US recovery. A handful of big banks say it’s the American people who spoiled the party.

With the Delta wave on the rise, causing a dip in consumer spending and confidence, Goldman Sachs slashed its forecast for third-quarter gross domestic product growth to 5.5% from 9% on Wednesday. Bank of America followed on Friday, cutting its GDP estimate to 4.5% growth from 7% and officially implying the recovery peaked in the second quarter.

Bank economists aren’t the only ones on Wall Street growing more pessimistic toward the recovery. Only 27% of fund managers expect growth to improve over the next 12 months, according to a survey conducted by BofA earlier in August. That’s the smallest share since April 2020, when lockdowns just started to freeze the US economy. That print also came before retail sales data showed spending slow more than expected in July.

That spending slowdown sits in the center of Wall Street’s gloomier outlook. The surge in Delta cases prompted a resumption of mask-wearing rules across the country and revived fears of catching the coronavirus. Those trends quickly dragged on Americans’ spending. Retail sales slid 1.1% in July, with the largest declines showing up at clothing stores, bookstores, and car dealerships.

Consumer spending counts for roughly 70% of economic activity, making retail sales one of the most relevant measures of the US recovery. Put simply, Americans stopped spending as much in July, and the recovery is likely going to be worse off for it.

The retail sales report shows a “sharp pullback in demand” and starts the quarter off “on a bad note,” BofA economists led by Michelle Meyer said in a note. Even if spending bounces back in August and September, the bleak July print points to “relatively muted” growth in the third quarter, they added.

The data showed a “larger slowdown in spending than we expected,” particularly in service sectors that have yet to stage full recoveries, Goldman economists led by Jan Hatzius said. If case counts continue to rise and restrictions intensify, the recovery could stumble further.

Still, both teams are holding out hope that spending can bounce back before 2022. The slump shouldn’t last long, as the duration of Delta outbreaks in Europe suggest case counts in the US could start to fall in September, the Goldman economists said. The bank raised its fourth-quarter GDP forecast to 6.5% from 5.5% on Wednesday as well, noting the expected drop in cases should power a buying spree similar to that seen through spring.

BofA maintained its fourth-quarter estimate of 6%. The Delta wave will bring “some permanent growth destruction,” but most growth will simply be delayed further into the future, the team said.

“Once the Delta threat is reduced and this COVID wave subsides, we should see the return of pent-up spending for leisure services,” the economists added. “Some categories will have a bigger bounce than others – perhaps travel more than restaurants/bars, for example – but we should see people reengage in these activities.”

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America’s economic recovery is already stalling, but Biden is trying to buy a second wind

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers a speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on July 13, 2021.

  • The US economic recovery is faltering. Pres. Biden’s spending plans promise an acceleration.
  • US economic growth missed Q2 forecasts, and new COVID risks could slow the expansion further.
  • While conservatives fear new spending can boost inflation, the White House sees it as a historic opportunity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US economic recovery might have just peaked. The Biden administration has plans to keep the party alive, but it won’t be cheap.

Data published Thursday showed economic output growing at an annualized rate of 6.5% in the second quarter. It marks a complete recovery from the pandemic-era drop in output, with gross domestic product finally surpassing its end-of-2019 peak.

Yet economists expected growth of 8.5%, making the government report a considerable disappointment. The quarter also benefited from stimulus and the reversal of lockdown measures. It’s highly probable that growth will moderate in the following quarters.

And new obstacles are emerging. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is causing some cities to reinstate mask mandates, possibly discouraging people from dining out, heading back to their offices and hurting consumer spending. Americans are also staring down a so-called fiscal cliff, with support programs like the student-loan moratorium and enhanced unemployment benefits slated to expire in the fall.

Growth is still expected to trend well above its historical average through the rest of the year. But with nearly 10 million Americans still unemployed, the economy remains far from fully healed.

Enter President Joe Biden and his multi-trillion-dollar spending plans. As economic growth is set to slow, the White House is moving full-steam ahead on packages it argues will lead to a stronger expansion and years of permanently higher output. It’s pushing $4 trillion in new infrastructure spending that encompasses physical items like roads and bridges, and upgrading broadband connections.

That’s not all. Biden and Democratic lawmakers are also trying to advance plans for new spending on family care, free education, and clean energy. Senate Democrats struck a deal on a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, and it will embark on a party-line process known as reconciliation. That may face cuts in the weeks ahead, however.

The two proposals make up what Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen deemed “historic investments” that promise “a big return.” Instead of providing the kind of immediate boost yielded by the March stimulus package, the White House has billed the follow-up plans as drivers of permanently higher growth through the 2020s. Simply put, the Biden administration is looking to buy its way to a stronger rebound.

Yet conservatives argue it could cause a significant rise in inflation and set back the recovery.

“In the short-term, the economy is heading into its potential growth rate,” Brian Riedl, an economist at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, told Insider. ” Any additional stimulus will likely lead to inflation rather than long-term growth.”

The White House isn’t dissuaded by these arguments.

“We still have work to do to build our economy back better,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “It’s why he’s working with Democrats to deliver on additional support for our middle class that will create a fairer, more sustainable, and stronger economy.”

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Global growth will hit a 5-decade high in 2021 on vaccine-powered rebound, OECD says in upgraded forecast

Japan shopping street coronavirus
  • The OECD lifted its 2021 global GDP estimate to 5.8% from 4.2%, forecasting the fastest growth since 1973.
  • Group of 20 countries will see even stronger growth and emerging countries will lag, the organization said.
  • Central banks need to look through temporary inflation and keep policy support in place, the OECD added.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Economic recoveries are improving around the world, but the global rebound remains massively uneven, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a new report.

The OECD revised its estimate for global gross domestic product higher on Monday, citing unprecedented policy support and the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Output is now expected to grow 5.8% in 2021, up from the December 2020 forecast of a 4.2% expansion. That rate would mark the strongest year of economic growth since 1973 and follow last year’s 3.5% contraction, the OECD said.

Global GDP will then grow 4.4% in 2022, according to the report. Global income will still sit roughly $3 trillion below its pre-crisis trend by the end of next year as emerging countries struggle to keep up.

“The global economy remains below its pre-pandemic growth path and in too many OECD countries living standards by the end of 2022 will not be back to the level expected before the pandemic,” Laurence Boone, chief economist at OECD, said.

Living conditions aren’t the only disparity expected to widen through the recovery. Real GDP is expected to grow 6.3% and 4.7% among G20 nations in 2021 and 2022, respectively. That outpaces the average growth estimate.

Meanwhile, some emerging-market economies are expected to post substandard growth in the near term. Countries still enduring deadly waves of COVID-19 such as India and Brazil “may continue to have large shortfalls in GDP relative to pre-pandemic expectations” and only bounce back once the virus threat fades, the organization said.

Improving vaccine distribution is key to supporting such countries, especially as virus uncertainties linger. New variants of COVID-19 could necessitate a return to partial lockdowns if populations aren’t vaccinated quickly enough, the organization warned. Such a resurgence could also drag consumer confidence lower and halt any rebound in spending.

Upside risks have emerged as well. Household saving boomed through the pandemic, and that cash could soon be unleashed as people unwind pent-up demand. Spending just a fraction of the bolstered savings “would raise GDP growth significantly,” the OECD said.

But with spending comes inflation. Supply-chain disruptions and bottlenecks around the world have driven material prices higher in recent months. When coupled with a sharp bounce in demand and various stages of reopening, price growth now sits at its highest levels in more than a decade. The OECD expects inflation to average 2.7% in 2021 before cooling to 2.4% next year.

Central banks should allow for a brief inflation overshoot as production normalizes and temporary pressures ease, Boone wrote. Running economies hot can allow for stronger hiring and wage growth, particularly among low-income groups. Central banks must “remain vigilant” and look through temporary inflation, the economist said.

“What is of most concern, in our view, is the risk that financial markets fail to look through temporary price increases and relative price adjustments, pushing market interest rates and volatility higher,” Boone added.

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Biden sees a post-pandemic economic boom, but a small and short one

Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Biden’s budget sees the economy booming for just two years before settling into slower growth.
  • GDP is forecasted to grow 1.8% annually in the mid-2020s, weaker than growth after past recessions.
  • The conservative estimates contrast with the Trump administration’s pattern of underdelivering.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration sees a strong economic rebound in the cards. What’s forecasted afterward is less exciting.

President Joe Biden revealed his budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year on Friday, laying out his plan to spend roughly $6 trillion on child care, clean-energy initiatives, and infrastructure improvements – and laying out a set of forecasts for US gross domestic product over the next several years.

The near-term estimates are promising. Biden sees GDP expanding 5.2% in 2021 and 3.2% in 2022, handily exceeding the annual growth seen just before the COVID-19 crisis.

But if the so-called Biden boom began with his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan in March, then his budget proposal sees it ending just two years later. The administration estimates GDP growth will slow to 2% in 2023 and then settle at 1.8% through 2027.

This is considerably weaker than recoveries from previous recessions. Annual growth averaged 2.3% from 2010 to 2019 as the US placed the Great Financial Crisis behind it. After the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.4% until 2008. And the output expanded at an annual pace of 4.4% from 1983 to 1989, after back-to-back recessions had kickstarted the decade.

Biden’s forecast, then, is notably conservative. It contrasts with statements he’s made publicly as recently as this week. Citing “independent experts” in a Thursday speech, the president said growth could come in at 6% or greater in 2021.

He added that his follow-up spending proposals would open the door to “faster” growth. Yet the rate of expansion forecasted in his budget sees growth slowing or holding steady through 2027.

It also falls short of forecasts from major Wall Street banks. Morgan Stanley sees growth coming in at 8% this year before cooling to 3.2% in 2022. Bank of America projects growth of 7% in 2021 and 5.5% the following year.

The modest estimates could reflect a desire to buck the trend seen throughout the Trump presidency, which underdelivered on growth, even before considering the economic collapse seen through 2020.

The Trump administration’s final budget expected GDP growth to trend at 2.9% through 2030. While that was published before the pandemic, it still handily exceed the levels forecasted by Biden.

To be sure, other estimates in Biden’s plan are much more optimistic. The White House expects the unemployment rate to fall from 6.1% to 5.5% by the end of 2021 and reach 4.1% by the end of 2022. The rate will then hold steady at 3.8% into 2031, just above the pre-pandemic lows of 3.5%, according to the plan.

Biden’s latest spending proposals – which include trillions of dollars for infrastructure and family support – are also engineered to provide sustained investment instead of an immediate burst like that seen with his stimulus plan. Both packages are meant to be spent over the next eight to 10 years, and administration officials argue such a timeline would minimize their effect on inflation.

The White House has also stepped up its calls to invest in economic growth while interest rates sit at historic lows. While deficits are traditionally measured as debt to GDP, interest-payments to GDP are a better measure for sustainable spending, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers in a Thursday hearing.

The government should spend on investments that lift output over the long term while debt-financing costs are so low, she added.

“The president’s proposal will have a temporary period of spending and permanent increases that, beyond the budget window, will result in lower deficits and more tax revenue to support those expenditures,” Yellen told a House Appropriations subcommittee.

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US GDP will exceed its pre-pandemic peak by the end of June, Atlanta Fed model says

restaurants
  • The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow estimate sees economic growth reaching 10.4% in the second quarter.
  • Such an expansion would place US GDP above its pre-pandemic record and mark a full recovery.
  • First-quarter growth reached 6.4% as stimulus and vaccination allowed the economy to reopen.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

By at least one popular measure, the US economy will fully recover and exceed its pre-pandemic strength in the second quarter.

US gross domestic product is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 10.4% through the quarter that ends in June, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s GDPNow model. Growth at that pace would place economic output at a new record high, surpassing the peak seen during the fourth quarter of 2019. It would also be the second-strongest rate of growth since 1978, exceeded only by the record-breaking expansion seen through the third quarter of 2020.

The central bank’s nowcast is a type of projection that is updated as new economic data is published. GDPNow isn’t an official forecast from the Atlanta Fed, and is instead used to narrow down where quarterly growth is likely to land. The model also ignores the pandemic’s impact beyond its influence on source data such as retail sales and global trade, according to the Fed.

The first GDPNow reading for the second quarter was published on Friday, just one day after the Commerce Department published its initial estimate of first-quarter growth. US GDP expanded at an annualized rate of 6.4% in the first three months of the year, missing the median estimate of 6.7% but still showing a sharp acceleration from the prior period. The jump was primarily fueled by widespread vaccination, gradual reopening, and stimulus passed by former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

To be sure, the last quarter’s expansion came in softer than the Atlanta Fed’s final first-quarter estimate of 7.9%.

Though some individual indicators have already surpassed their pre-pandemic levels and signal a strong recovery, GDP remains just below its previous peak. Following the first-quarter reading, GDP has retraced about 96% of its pandemic-era decline. With data tracking consumer spending and hiring trending higher as the economy reopens further, the US is largely expected to complete its GDP recovery in the next two months.

Economists outside the Fed also see growth accelerating through the current quarter. The consensus estimate from a survey of forecasters calls for annualized growth of just under 9% in the second quarter. The most bullish estimates see GDP expanding at a rate of more than 11%, while the least optimistic expect growth to land at about 6%.

The estimates underscore the fact that, should vaccination continue and case counts decline further, the US is on track for its strongest rate of annual growth in decades. The International Monetary Fund estimates GDP will grow 6.4% through all of 2021, exceeding global growth of about 6% and marking the fastest rate of expansion since the early 1980s. Separately, Federal Reserve officials hold a median estimate of 6.5% growth this year.

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The IMF lifts its global growth forecast with vaccination and stimulus likely to be a shot in the arm

Kristalina Georgieva
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks at a press conference in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 4, 2020.

  • The IMF will lift its forecast for global economic growth in a report set for release next week.
  • Vaccination and new US stimulus were grounds for the upgrade, the IMF’s managing director said.
  • Still, developing economies are recovering far slower than advanced countries, she added.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The International Monetary Fund will lift its projections for global economic growth in the wake of encouraging vaccination trends and major new stimulus in the US, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Tuesday.

The IMF will roll out an upgraded set of forecasts for this year and for 2022 next week when it publishes its World Economic Outlook report, she said. The organization’s January estimates saw global output growing 5.5% in 2021 after a forecasted tumble of 3.5% the previous year. The months since have seen COVID-19 cases fall from their peaks, vaccine rollouts begin, and $1.9 trillion in new fiscal support from the Biden administration.

The developments all stand to boost global economic recoveries through the summer, Georgieva said in prepared remarks.

“This allows for an upward revision to our global forecast for this year and for 2022,” she said.

Without “extraordinary effort” from essential workers and scientists, the global recession seen through most of 2020 would have been “at least three times worse,” the managing director added.

The news isn’t all good. Georgieva highlighted that, despite the broadly improved outlook, the global recovery remains uneven and gaps between countries could widen in the coming months. The US and China are likely to reach pre-pandemic levels of gross domestic product by the end of the year, but “they are the exception, not the rule,” she said.

New virus strains in Europe and Latin America are fueling high uncertainty about the region’s prospects. Emerging and developing countries also endured a 20% drop in per-capita income, roughly twice that seen in advanced economies. The plunge leaves emerging countries with a much harder climb back to pre-crisis health.

“They already have more limited fiscal firepower to fight the crisis. And many are highly exposed to hard-hit sectors, such as tourism,” Georgieva said

One upgrade among many

The IMF joins a handful of other institutions turning more bullish toward the US and global rebounds. Fitch lifted its own forecast for global expansion on March 18 to 6.1% from 5.3%, similarly citing stimulus and progress toward reopening. The estimate implies the strongest year of global growth since at least 1980.

US growth will outperform slightly at 6.2%, Fitch said. That’s up from the previous estimate of 4.5%.

“It still looks reasonable to assume that the health crisis will ease by midyear, allowing social contact to start to recover. But immunization delays or problems remain the key risk,” the firm said.

Wall Street giants have also boosted their estimates in recent weeks. Morgan Stanley is among the most bullish, lifting its US growth estimate to 8.1% in 2021 from 7.6% in an early March note. The forecast also calls for US GDP to reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of the first quarter.

Bank of America raised its 2021 US growth estimate to 7% from 6.5% on Thursday, marking its fourth upgrade this year alone. The revision was entirely linked to Democrats’ new stimulus measure and the “exceptional consumer spending” seen among those receiving relief checks, the team led by Michelle Meyer wrote.

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US economic growth will hit 7% this year on major stimulus boost, BofA says in latest upgrade

People Shopping covid NYC
People shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket as New York City continues reopening efforts on December 4, 2020.

  • BofA lifted its 2021 US GDP forecast to 7% from 6.5%, the latest in several upgrades by the bank.
  • The firm sees strong spending already and unemployment falling to 4.5% later this year.
  • The White House’s plan for up to $3 trillion in new spending can further lift growth, the bank said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The American reopening is already leading to stronger growth than banks expected. Just ask Bank of America.

On Thursday, BofA economists lifted their 2021 US growth forecast once again on hopes for past and future stimulus accelerating the economic recovery. The upgrade is at least the fourth the bank has made this year.

The team led by Michelle Meyer now expects gross domestic product to grow 7% this year, up from the previous estimate of 6.5%. Output will then reach 5.5% the following year, also an upgrade.

Growth on a fourth-quarter-by-fourth-quarter basis will total 7.7% in 2021 and 4.4% in 2022, the team added. That exceeds the Federal Reserve’s median estimates of 6.2% and 3.4% growth in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

The upward revision is entirely linked to stimulus. The $1.9 trillion measure passed by Democrats earlier this month is already fueling “exceptional consumer spending” according to credit- and debit-card spending data tracked by the bank. Distribution of $1,400 direct payments contributed to a 40% month-over-month spending leap among recipients. The boost might only just be getting started, the economists said in a note to clients.

Total card spending was up a whopping 45% from a year ago and 23% from two years ago for the seven days ending March 20, per BofA data.

“We think consumer spending is about to take off given the one-two punch of stimulus and reopening,” they added.

Hopes for a follow-up spending package added to the bank’s rosier forecast. The White House is organizing a proposal for up to $3 trillion in spending on infrastructure, climate, and education projects to further aid the country’s rebound. Such a plan would drive a more moderate boost to growth over a longer period of time, the bank said.

Tax hikes used to pay for a follow-up spending package could offset some gains, the team added.

Stronger 2021 growth should open the door for a swifter labor market recovery, according to the bank. The team expects a series of encouraging jobs reports starting with the March release scheduled for April 2. Payroll growth is projected to average 950,000 per month in the second quarter and pull the unemployment rate to 4.7% from 6.1%.

The rate will fall more modestly through the rest of the year to 4.5%, the team said. That matches the Fed’s own year-end estimate.

Bank of America’s bullish update follows similarly optimistic forecasts from Wall Street peers. Recent weeks have seen Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Goldman Sachs all lift their own estimates for 2021 GDP growth.

Morgan Stanley remains the most bullish of the bunch, estimating the economy will expand 8.1% this year and return to pre-pandemic output levels by the end of the first quarter. All three banks, along with Bank of America, hold decidedly more hopeful outlooks than the Fed due to expectations for another large-scale spending measure.

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Fed lifts estimates for US economic growth and employment as vaccination speeds up

Federal Reserve
  • The Fed boosted its estimates for economic growth in its projections since December.
  • US GDP is forecasted to grow 6.5% this year, up from the prior estimate of 4.2%.
  • The Fed also sees the unemployment rate sinking to 4.5% by the end of 2021.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Federal Reserve policymakers boosted their projections for the US economic recovery on Wednesday as new stimulus and vaccine rollouts pave the way for a summer reopening.

The Federal Open Market Committee’s median estimate for 2021 gross domestic product growth rose to 6.5% this year, and 3.3% for 2022. That compares to the previous forecasts of 4.2% and 3.2%, respectively. The unemployment rate is now expected to dip to 4.5% this year, an improvement from the prior forecast of 5%.

The FOMC released its quarterly summary of economic projections following the second day of its March meetings. The central bank elected to hold interest rates at historic lows and maintain its pace of asset purchases at $80 billion in Treasurys and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities per month.

The estimates are the first to be published since December, and therefore are the first to include the impact the $900 billion stimulus package passed late last year, the $1.9 trillion plan signed earlier this month, and the improved pace of vaccination. The developments have all been viewed as major boons to the economic rebound and prompted several economists to lift their own growth forecasts.

The nation’s fight against the coronavirus has also shifted significantly since the December FOMC meeting. Daily case counts surged to a peak above 300,000 in early January but have since tumbled to around 50,000 as distancing measures and vaccination curbs the pandemic’s spread.

New stimulus has been criticized by Republicans for risking runaway inflation through the recovery. Fed officials have countered such concerns in recent weeks. Jerome Powell has repeatedly said that, although reopening and stimulus can produce a quick jump in inflation, the effect will likely be temporary and give way to a similarly sharp decline.

The FOMC’s latest estimates reflect such an outlook. Members see personal consumption expenditures inflation – the Fed’s preferred price-growth gauge – reaching 2.4% in 2021, up from the previous 1.8% estimate. Inflation will then fall to 2% in 2022 and reach 2.1% the following year.

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The US economy will grow 7.9% in 2021 as stimulus juices consumer spending, UBS says

US Capitol
The US Capitol building exterior is seen at sunset on March 8, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • UBS economists lifted their 2021 Q4-Q4 growth estimate to 7.9%, citing Biden’s huge stimulus plan.
  • Another relief package will extend strong growth through 2022, the team added.
  • Inflation will surge through reopening but quickly calm as the economy normalizes, the bank said.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Another massive tranche of fiscal stimulus is on the brink of passage, and UBS sees the measure fueling strong growth well into next year.

Economists led by Seth Carpenter expect US gross domestic product to grow 7.9% from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the fourth quarter of 2021. Growth on a calendar-year basis will total 6.6%, a larger-than-usual difference due to depressed first-quarter gains.

The economy will continue to expand at a robust pace in 2022 as a new fiscal support measure further boosts the recovery, the team projected.

The bank’s previous baseline scenario assumed Republican opposition would force President Joe Biden to shrink his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, but that hasn’t taken place. With House Democrats poised to approve the measure in a final vote on Wednesday, the bill is set to lift the last pockets of the economy still struggling through lockdowns.

“The manufacturing sector is robust. The housing sector is surging. The part of the economy that is lagging is consumer spending on services,” the team said in a Tuesday note. Their updated forecast sees spending more evenly spread between goods and services.

Nearly all signs point to a healthy recovery in the coming months. The average rate of vaccination has stabilized above 2 million shots per day, according to Bloomberg data. At the same time, daily case counts are down significantly from their January peak and hospitalizations have similarly plummeted.

The pace of the rebound has raised questions as to whether Biden’s massive relief plan is necessary. Where Democrats claim the hole in the economy is large enough to warrant nearly $2 trillion in fresh aid, critics argue the proposal will overheat the economy and send inflation soaring.

UBS sees little risk of a lengthy inflation overshoot. April and May will likely see price growth sharply accelerate, but that rally will quickly give way to moderately higher inflation in line with the Federal Reserve’s target. The roughly 10 million jobs still lost to the pandemic are proof that there’s room for stronger-than-usual inflation, the bank said.

“We see sustained growth, well in excess of the long-run sustainable pace, but we also see a substantial amount of labor market slack,” the team added.

The outlook matches that outlined in recent weeks by Fed Chair Jerome Powell. The central bank expects reopening to lift prices at a fairly quick rate, but the decades-long trend of relatively weak inflation won’t “change on a dime,” Powell said in a late-February House hearing.

The Fed’s preferred inflation gauge will only trend at its 2% target by the end of 2023, UBS said. Rate hikes likely won’t arrive until 2024, though tapering of the central bank’s asset purchases could arrive as soon as October if the recovery surprises to the upside, the economists added.

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US GDP will return to pre-pandemic highs by the end of March, Morgan Stanley says

Mall coronavirus retail
  • The US economy will grow 8.1% in 2021 as the coronavirus threat fades for good, Morgan Stanley said.
  • GDP will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the first quarter, the bank’s economists added.
  • Unemployment will fall to 4.9% in 2021, the bank said, still above the rate from before the crisis.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Morgan Stanley has lifted its forecasts for 2021 economic growth in the US, citing a collection of encouraging trends for its brighter outlook.

Gross domestic product is now expected to grow by 8.1% on a fourth-quarter by fourth-quarter basis, up from 7.6%, the team led by Ellen Zentner said in a Tuesday note. Growth for 2022 was revised 0.1 points lower to 2.8%.

The bank also expects US GDP to fully rebound to its pre-pandemic level by the end of the current quarter. The output gap – a measure of how actual growth compares to maximum potential growth estimates – is expected to turn positive and reach 2.7% by the end of the year as the economy roars out of its virus-induced downturn. That would be the highest reading since the 1970s, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Economic reopening, a faster rate of vaccination, and stronger job growth all contributed to the adjustments, the economists said. New stimulus likely to win final approval in the House on Wednesday is in line with what the bank expected, but its earlier timing and the pace of first-quarter growth also added to optimism, the team added.

Morgan Stanley sees the unemployment rate tumbling further, though taking longer to reach lows seen before the pandemic. The gauge is projected to average 4.9% by the fourth quarter of 2021, down from the previous 5.1% estimate. Unemployment will sink further to 3.9% over the following year, the team said.

“A more robust return to work will be somewhat offset by rising labor force participation, but economic activity is strong enough to still generate a sharp decline in the unemployment rate,” the bank added.

The faster recovery will come at a cost, and Morgan Stanley’s latest inflation projections signal price growth will firm up later this year. Higher prices for rent, healthcare, and staples will lift inflation to 2.6% in April and May before it eases to 2.3% at the end of the year, according to the economists. Inflation will hold at the elevated level well into 2022, meeting the Federal Reserve’s above-2% target.

Still, significant tightening of monetary conditions isn’t likely to take place until 2023, the bank said. Policymakers will likely reiterate their dovish guidance when they meet next week and project near-zero rates staying at least through 2022. Yet the recovery and related effects on inflation and hiring will lead the Fed to begin shrinking its asset purchases in January 2022, Morgan Stanley said.

“By the middle of the year we expect the cloud of COVID will have thinned and the recovery will have picked up meaningfully enough that the Fed will see it as appropriate to begin taking its foot off the gas pedal,” they added.

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