Monday, March 19, 2012

Roubini : next year we will have a meaningful Fiscal Drag

Nouriel Roubini : My feeling is that the economic data are mixed. Certainly creating 200,000 jobs per month as opposed to only 100,000 is a positive signal. But while the data for the last 2 to 3 months were consistently surprising on the upside, some recent data suggests an element of caution. For example, real consumption spending has been flat for three months in a row. Durable goods orders -- a proxy for capital spending by the corporate sector -- are sharply down in January after the tax advantages expired at the end of last year. Construction spending is still down. Home prices are still falling. Today, the number on the trade balance in January came in worse than expected. So if you look at the macro supply data it looks better. But the demand data, whether it's consumption or residential or net exports, suggests there's still softness. My view of it is still that economic growth is going to be soft, anemic, and below-trend. I think the tail risk of an outright recession conditional on external shock, like eurozone turmoil or oil or China is a small risk right now compared to six months ago. But I think the data is not consistent with the views that we are going to start growing at 3 percent plus in the next 12 months. Growth for this year is going to be maybe 2 percent. And by next year, what's going to happen is that -- regardless of whether Obama is reelected or a Republican (say, Romney) there will be, first of all, a meaningful fiscal drag, because mandated spending cuts start to be triggered if they refuse to do the draconian spending cuts on defense or discretionary funds. All the tax cuts -- dividends, capital gains, estate, income taxes -- expire and not all of them are going to be fully renewed. The payroll tax cut is also supposed to be one year, now it's two years, but we cannot have it forever. And discretionary transfer payments are going to be reduced and government spending is on the way down. So you have a fiscal drag. Disposable income growth has been boosted for the last year and a half ... so some of the growth of last year and this year has been stolen from the future. And because of the fiscal drag and the effect of that on household disposable income, I see further economic softness even next year. - in foreignpolicy
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