2013 Symposium: What Is Your Outlook For The Economy In 2014?

Cartwright: Either I’ve been wrong about the US economy for the last year or so or else the economic data being provided by various federal departments is wrong and intentionally misleading. Unemployment is down to 7%? How about all the people who exhausted the unemployment benefits and aren’t included in that statistic? And if everything is going well why is the Congress considering extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed? I don’t think the economy is doing particularly well right now. I think we’re just sort of stagnant. Forget the GDP figures. Businesses aren’t really growing. They’re just maintaining the status quo. The real retrenchment comes once Obamacare is in full force and businesses find out how it’s going to impact them. Consumers aren’t all that optimistic. I think retailers will find that the Christmas shopping season didn’t live up to expectations. Prices are rising. Just take a look at groceries. Everyone has to eat so everyone has to buy goods at the grocery store. This is going to continue to hurt consumers.

I think we’re going to have a downturn in 2014. I don’t know if it will constitute the technical definition of a recession, but I think we’ll have slow or no growth and another way of layoffs as businesses adjust to the healthcare law and all its nuances. Obamacare is going to have a negative impact on businesses and it will negatively affect the economy as a whole. Prices are going to continue to rise. I think we’ll see a rise in oil and gasoline prices to highs not seen in about five or six years. The housing market will remain slow but initially show some signs of strength only to give that back in the second half of the year. The stock market will probably continue to do well as long as interest rates are low. It seems the market has become the place to store money for decent returns as opposed to bonds that aren’t yielding much. The Federal Reserve will continue tapering the quantitative easing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they start talking about raising rates towards year end.

North Carolina: Many Americans are in agreement with Columbia University Nobel-laureate economist, Edmund Phelps’ statement on the economy in which he said, “We’re in a slow-growth period of unknown duration.” With this kind of scary outlook for the economy in 2014, citizens are batting down the hatches, spending carefully, living cautiously and reeling in uncertainty. With Phelps’ forecast, taxes will continue to rise, the economy will keep spiraling in a downward direction and unless voters see the light and turn the political landscape around, the worth of the dollar will be drowned in high inflation and our nation’s decline will teeter on the cliff’s edge. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) gives its outlook on the U.S. economy in 2014, and it is a pessimistic one. Its report, through “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013-2023,” expects the economy to remain moribund and for unemployment to remain near eight percent, and it projects that both the actual and potential GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will eke out 2.5% yearly gains between 2019 and 2023. The Federal Reserve admitted in late November 2013 that a “slower growth in productivity might have become the norm” for the economy. With this forecast, the Federal Reserve will not stop its stimulus spending, which actually no longer stimulates economic growth, and the reverse effect has been felt with the lowered buying power of the dollar with an inflationary follow up. After over five years of support from the Federal Reserve, economic growth is weak. The U.S. Economic Outlook website reports that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its growth estimate for the global economy to 3.6% for 2013 and forecast estimates would be lower. The U.S. Economic Outlook further reports that “economic instability, political deadlock, the business community’s mistrust of the government, concerns over its fiscal health, further layoffs and unemployment, deterioration in the development of its financial markets, and a weak American dollar have cut into corporate America’s bottom line.”

Even with the current bull stock market, the U.S. economy experiences economic slowdowns every four to six years and while the markets may be performing well, average Americans are not. As unemployment and debt remain high with a flat Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and declining disposable income, there are few observable positive factors. Making ends meet in 2014 is going to be a significant challenge for average Americans, no matter the state of the bull Stock Market, the Federal Reserve or the endless talk of recovery over the past five years. Americans hang on, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Orlando: The economy will likely continue to show slow growth in 2014, barring any giant political hurdles, and will likely continue on as it ever has. A few individual markets may see radical shifts, and savvy investors can take advantage of these trends. They are continuations from trends which began in 2013 and earlier that could come to a head in 2014. All bets are off, though, if no debt ceiling deal is reached before the January deadline. Another debacle like that one could trigger a panicked flight out of treasury bills, cutting the foundation out of the slow recovery.

Energy sector stocks had a fairly strong 2013, ending Q4 with a significant, though expected due to seasonal fluctuations, upswing. 2014, though, could be a year of significant energy revolution. Improvements in photovoltaic solar cells and the completion of the largest solar power plant in America could signal a proof of concept that renewable energy is poised to take a significant market share from the oil and natural gas sectors. Expect strong growth in semiconductor manufacturing toward the beginning of Q2.

Consumer goods will continue to be strong performers, and the rich will likely only get richer. If you have your money in a non-cyclical consumer goods manufacturer like P&G, GE, or Unilever, expect to see the same consistent, predictable growth that has characterized this sector for years. As these companies look to improve logistics operations, look for new jobs to emerge in major chemical manufacturing hubs like Texas.

New housing construction will likely not improve significantly. Look instead for an upswing in existing home buying. Real estate, while no longer the gold standard in investment it was in the 90’s and early 2000’s, remains a fairly safe place to be. Greater regulatory scrutiny will slow growth in the housing market, but as the major investment firms recoup some of their losses from the recession, look for them to open up lending to real estate developers to refit older homes abandoned in the financial crisis for new families.

Automobile manufacturing will likely continue to struggle, as American car manufacturers watch from a crumbling palace in Detroit. The inability of American manufacturers to deliver the fuel-efficient, technology integrated cars demanded by young, upwardly mobile suburbanites will continue to plague the motor city.

The 2014 economy will continue as it always has, taking from the old and giving to the new. The rich are likely to get richer, while the poor may not have much room to get poorer. Make your economic decisions with confidence, as some things never change.

Michigan: I don’t think 2014 will be much different than 2013. We did make some progress in some areas and the market had a great year. Unemployment will remain about the same, the debt will continue to grow and nothing will get done by our elected officials. Not trying to be a “downer”. Just a realist.

Washington, DC: The world has been in economic turmoil for several years now, but the USA has been able to ride out the crisis with relatively few losses when compared to other countries. While many Americans were blindsided when the housing bubble burst in 2007, the prospects seem better for the upcoming year. According to latest numbers from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to the previous year, the unemployment rate decreased in forty-two states, increased in seven states including the District of Columbia, and remained unchanged in one state. Overall, the unemployment rate was 7% in November 2013, which signified a decrease of 0.8% compared to the unemployment rate in November 2012. Moreover, the Bureau predicts that in the period 2012-2022, the total employment in the country will increase by 10.8%, which translates to 15.6 million jobs, mostly in healthcare, social assistance, and construction industries.

Another important indicator of economic health is the inflation rate. As of November 2013, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the inflation rate was 1.20% (the average inflation rate between 1914 and 2013 was 3.34%), which demonstrates a relative strength of the American dollar. As such, many economists stay optimistic regarding the economic recovery in the USA for 2014. There is a growth in new houses and car sales, the stock market is moving upwards, and employment is staying relatively high. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the economy grew by 4.1% in the third quarter in 2013, and the trend is expected to stay. Thus, Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of Federal Reserve, asserted in his speech from December 18 that the American economy is expected to grow between 2.8% and 3.2% in 2014, while most economists predict the growth somewhere between 2.8% and 3%.

As such, there are some positive indicators regarding economic outlook for the USA in 2014. Hopefully, these indicators will come true.

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