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Economists Cite Spring Swoon but See Growth Gains Ahead

Wall Street Journal (04/11/13) Phil Izzo

Although there are signs the economy is slowing in the second quarter, 49 economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal say the economy will improve as the year unfolds. “Once again, the U.S. economy is losing steam as winter turns into spring, with payroll employment, household employment, jobless claims, and [manufacturing and service indexes] all below expectations,” says Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs. The lackluster conclusion of the first quarter led economists to mark down their expectations for second-quarter growth in gross domestic product to 1.8%. The economists on average estimated that GDP expanded 3.1% in the first quarter at a seasonally adjusted annual rate.

Still, consumers have been resilient, and the housing market is doing well. The economists forecast that growth will improve in the second half of the year, to 2.5%, the quickest pace in eight years. “The bottom line for households is that stronger finances should enable them to spend at a modestly faster rate this year relative to last year,” says Joseph LaVorgna of Deutsche Bank. “We believe it is premature to say the labor market is undergoing another swoon, because it ignores important—and positive—developments that have taken place over the past few years.”