Monday, January 01, 2018

Question #1 for 2018: How much will the economy grow in 2018?

by Bill McBride on 1/01/2018 07:25:00 PM

Earlier I posted some questions for next year: Ten Economic Questions for 2018. I've added some thoughts, and a few predictions for each question.

1) Economic growth: Heading into 2018, most analysts are pretty sanguine and expecting some pickup in growth due to the recent tax cuts.  From Goldman Sachs:

"We are adjusting our forecasts to reflect the final details of the tax bill, as well as the incremental easing in financial conditions and continued strong economic momentum to end the year. We are increasing our GDP forecasts for 2018 and 2019 by 0.3pp and 0.2pp, respectively, on a Q4/Q4 basis (to 2.6% and 1.7%)."
How much will the economy grow in 2018?

First, since I'm always asked, I don't see a recession in 2018.

Note: The Trump administration projected 3.5% annual real growth over Mr. Trump's term: "Boost growth to 3.5 percent per year on average, with the potential to reach a 4 percent growth rate." (now removed from Trump website).

Here is a table of the annual change in real GDP since 2005.  Economic activity has mostly been in the 2% range since 2010.  Given current demographics, that is about what we'd expect: See: 2% is the new 4%.

Note: This table includes both annual change and q4 over the previous q4 (two slightly different measures).  In the quote above, Goldman Sachs economists are comparing Q4 over the previous Q4 (a slightly different calculation).  For 2017, I used a 3.0% annual growth rate in Q4 2017 (this gives 2.6% Q4 over Q4 or 2.3% real annual growth).

Real GDP Growth
Q4 / Q4
1 2017 estimate based on 3.0% Q4
annualized real growth rate

It is possible that there will be a pickup in growth in 2018 due to a combination of factors.

The new tax policy should boost the economy a little in 2018, and there will probably be some further economic boost from oil sector investment in 2018 since oil prices have increased recently.  Also the housing recovery is ongoing, however auto sales are mostly moving sideways.

And demographics are improving (the prime working age population is growing about 0.5% per year, compared to declining a few years ago).

All these factors combined will probably push GDP growth into the mid-to-high 2% range in 2018.  And a 3% handle is possible if there is some pickup in productivity.

Here are the Ten Economic Questions for 2018 and a few predictions:

Question #1 for 2018: How much will the economy grow in 2018?
Question #2 for 2018: Will job creation slow further in 2018?
Question #3 for 2018: What will the unemployment rate be in December 2018?
Question #4 for 2018: Will the core inflation rate rise in 2018? Will too much inflation be a concern in 2018?
Question #5 for 2018: Will the Fed raise rates in 2018, and if so, by how much?
Question #6 for 2018: How much will wages increase in 2018?
Question #7 for 2018: How much will Residential Investment increase?
Question #8 for 2018: What will happen with house prices in 2018?
Question #9 for 2018: Will housing inventory increase or decrease in 2018?
Question #10 for 2018: Will the New Tax Law impact Home Sales, Inventory, and Price Growth in Certain States?