Research >> Economics

Forecasters Predict real GDP will grow at a faster pace


The U.S. economy looks stronger now than it did three months ago, according to 42 forecasters surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The forecasters predict real GDP will grow at an annual rate of 2.2 percent this quarter and 2.3 percent next quarter. On an annual-average over annual-average basis, the forecasters predict real GDP growing 2.3 percent in 2017, 2.4 percent in 2018, and 2.6 percent in 2019. The forecasts for 2017, 2018, and 2019 are higher than the estimates of three months ago. For 2020, real GDP is estimated to grow 2.1 percent.

A brighter outlook for the labor market accompanies the outlook for stronger output growth. The forecasters predict that the unemployment rate will average 4.6 percent in 2017, 4.5 percent in 2018 and 2019, and 4.6 percent in 2020. The projections for 2017, 2018, and 2019 are below those of the last survey, indicating a brighter outlook for unemployment.

The panelists also predict an improvement in the employment outlook for 2017. The forecasters’ projections for the annual-average level of nonfarm payroll employment suggest job gains at a monthly rate of 180,300 in 2017, up from the previous estimate of 173,600. (These annual-average estimates are computed as the year-to-year change in the annual-average level of nonfarm payroll employment, converted to a monthly rate.)

The charts below provide some insight into the degree of uncertainty the forecasters have about their projections for the rate of growth in the annual-average level of real GDP. Each chart (except the one for 2020) presents the forecasters’ previous and current estimates of the probability that growth will fall into each of 11 ranges. The charts show the forecasters have revised upward their estimates of the probability that real GDP growth will be above 3.0 percent in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

The forecasters’ density projections for unemployment, shown below, shed light on uncertainty about the labor market over the next four years. Each chart presents the forecasters’ current estimates of the probability that unemployment will fall into each of 10 ranges. The charts show the panelists are raising their density estimates over the next three years at the range of 4.0 percent to 4.9 percent of unemployment outcomes.

Forecasters See Higher Inflation
The forecasters expect higher headline CPI inflation in 2017 and 2018 than they predicted three months ago. Measured on a fourth-quarter over fourth-quarter basis, headline CPI inflation is expected to average 2.4 percent in 2017 and 2.3 percent in 2018, up from 2.2 percent in both 2017 and 2018 in the last survey. The forecasters have also revised upward slightly their projections for headline PCE inflation in 2017 to 2.0 percent, up from 1.9 percent in the survey of three months ago.

Over the next 10 years, 2017 to 2026, the forecasters expect headline CPI inflation to average 2.30 percent at an annual rate. The corresponding estimate for 10-year annual-average PCE inflation is 2.10 percent.

The charts below show the median projections (the red line) and the associated interquartile ranges (gray areas around the red line) for the projections for 10-year annual-average CPI and PCE inflation. The top panel shows a higher level of the long-term projection for CPI inflation, at 2.3 percent. The bottom panel depicts the higher 10-year forecast for PCE inflation, at 2.1 percent.

The figures below show the probabilities that the forecasters are assigning to the possibility that fourth-quarter over fourth-quarter core PCE inflation in 2017 and 2018 will fall into each of 10 ranges. For 2017, the forecasters have increased the probability that core PCE inflation will be above 2.0 percent, compared with their estimates in the survey of three months ago.

Lower Risk of a Negative Quarter
The forecasters have revised downward the chance of a contraction in real GDP in any of the next four quarters. For the current quarter, the forecasters predict a 7.7 percent chance of negative growth, down from 14.0 percent in the survey of three months ago. The panelists have also made downward revisions to their forecasts for the next three quarters in 2017.

Forecasters State Their Views on Home Price Growth over the Next Two Years
In this survey, a special question asked panelists to provide their forecasts for fourth-quarter over fourth-quarter growth in house prices, as measured by a number of alternative indices. The panelists were allowed to choose their measure from a list of indices or to write in their own index. For each index of their choosing, the panelists provided forecasts for growth in 2017 and 2018.

Eighteen panelists answered the special question. Some panelists provided projections for more than one index. The table below provides a summary of the forecasters’ responses. The number of responses (N) is low for each index. The median estimates for the seven house-price indices listed in the table below range from 3.9 percent to 5.4 percent in 2017 and from 3.8 percent to 4.7 percent in 2018.

Forecasters See Higher Long-Run Growth in Output and Productivity and in Returns to Financial Assets
In our first-quarter surveys, the forecasters provide their long-run projections for an expanded set of variables, including growth in output and productivity, as well as returns on financial assets.

As the table below shows, the forecasters have increased their estimates for the annual-average rate of growth in real GDP over the next 10 years. Currently, the forecasters expect real GDP to grow at an annual-average rate of 2.45 percent over the next 10 years, up from their projection of 2.28 percent in the first-quarter survey of 2016. Ten-year annual average productivity growth is now expected to average 1.60 percent, up from 1.40 percent.

Upward revisions to the return on the financial assets accompany the current outlook. The forecasters see the S&P 500 returning an annual-average 6.00 percent per year over the next 10 years, up from 5.37 percent in last year’s first-quarter survey. The forecasters expect the rate on 10-year Treasuries to average 3.86 percent over the next 10 years, up from 3.39 percent in last year’s first-quarter survey. Three-month Treasury bills will return an annual-average 2.50 percent per year over the next 10 years, unchanged from last year’s survey.





Posted: February 10, 2017 Friday 10:00 AM




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