White House economists stuck to their guns on Thursday and forecast a soft landing for the US economy in spite of mounting market fears of inflation and slowing growth.
Releasing the administration’s twice-yearly update on the economy, Ed Lazear, the chairman of the council of economic advisers, said it did not expect higher-than-expected inflation in the first few months of this year to “cascade into future periods”.
He said there was no need to be alarmed by inflation expectations, saying they had stabilised at about 2.5 per cent and were “steady out to the distant future”. “All the indications we have seen are that we are moving to a soft landing,” he added, predicting that growth would remain robust and job creation would improve from recent depressed levels.
Mr Lazear said US trade data were moving “not only in the right direction but really at the right pace as well” and said he was relaxed about recent volatility in the dollar. “We see no reason to be alarmed by anything that is happening out there,” he said.
The White House raised its estimate for consumer price inflation this year to 3 per cent, from 2.4 just six months ago. That is in line with last month’s forecast by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development but lower than the 3.3 per cent median forecast in the latest Bloomberg poll of private-sector economists.
The White House now expects the economy to grow at 3.6 per cent this year, faster than last year. That is again in line with OECD predictions but 0.2 percentage points higher than the Bloomberg median forecast.
The administration forecasts growth will slow slightly to 3.3 per cent next year, with inflation dropping back to 2.4 per cent as the initial effect of higher oil prices falls away.
Mr Lazear expressed confidence that rising US interest rates would not push the economy into a sharp growth slowdown. He said that while new home starts had fallen sharply, house prices continued to rise, albeit at much slower rates than in the recent past.
The expansion was “deepening and broadening”, he claimed, with increased contributions from investment and exports. The White House forecasts that growth will be sufficient to generate an average of 156,000 jobs a month this year – roughly enough to keep unemployment stable. Last month the economy generated only 75,000 non-farm jobs.
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