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Why everyone is revising their forecast downwards

August 31, 2011

By CLU Center for Economics Research and Forecasting

We’ve seen more and more forecasters and analysts revising their forecast down. In fact, after being among the lowest for years, we’re now almost consensus. Remember, they came to us.

Downward revisions to United States gross domestic product (GDP) have driven most of the revisions. For about two years, we had trouble with the original GDP estimates. Our jobs forecasts were pretty accurate, but we forecasted productivity growth and consumer spending growth below the initial estimates. This caused us enough grief that we’ve been reviewing our models. Well, the revised numbers are entirely consistent with our original models.

Downward revisions to productivity growth and consumer spending are what drove the downward GDP revisions.

Enough bragging. What is happening to the economy? We’re seeing a weak recovery.
Increasing numbers of forecasters, spooked by weak numbers and downward revisions, are now forecasting a double-dip in the near future. We don’t think that is the most likely case.

We’ve said all along that this would be a weak and inconsistent recession, and that appears to be what we are seeing. Some encouraging data might come in this week. The next week could see weak data. This is exactly what we expect to see in a recovery where financial institutions are wounded, real estate is weak, and consumers over extended.

So, we don’t expect a double-dip recession. We expect continued slow growth, accompanied by weak real estate markets, weak consumer spending, slow job growth, and persistent high unemployment.

That would be the good news and the bad news.

Another recession is in our future though, and not just because the business cycle has not been repealed. However, the timing of the next recession is really difficult to forecast, because in part, the timing will probably be politically driven.

I have become convinced that the culmination of Europe’s problems will be a partial breakup of the Eurozone. Perhaps it will be complete breakup. It really doesn’t matter.

Any breakup will almost surely be accompanied by financial and political crises. These crises will initiate a new recession, one that will be impacting an already weakened economy. It’s likely to be very painful.

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