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Survey: Top Economists Say Recession Risks Rising Because of Trade War

Survey: Top Economists Say Recession Risks Rising Because of Trade War

A panel of economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics say the risk of a recession hitting the U.S. economy is on the rise, mainly due to the ongoing trade war with China and the potential beginning of another with the EU.

“The rise in protectionism, pervasive trade policy uncertainty, and slower global growth are considered key downside risks to U.S. economic activity,” NABE survey chairman and Oxford Economics top U.S. economist Gregory Daco said.

A slim majority of the Washington-based economists also say they expect the Federal Reserve to hold steady and not cut rates anymore this year, while about 40% say we should expect one more rate cut in 2019.

The survey of 51 economists, conducted Sept. 9-16, comes alongside news of a contraction in the manufacturing sector to a 10-year low in September, as well as a big slowdown in services industry growth, which have fallen to levels not seen since 2016. Last week’s negative reports led to a sharp sell-off through midweek that was largely erased by Thursday’s and Friday’s gains.

The survey showed economists expect the U.S. gross national product to slow to 2.3% for the year, down from 2.9% in 2018, and also a big downgrade from June’s estimate of 2.6%.

Four out of five respondents, up from 60% in June, also see an even sharper slowdown in 2020, with GDP falling to 1.8%. Though, they don’t expect a full-blown recession within the next 12 months. Of those surveyed, the chances for a recession this year are only about 7%, rising to 24% by about the mid-2020. They put the odds of a recession by mid-2021 at 69%.

Trade conflicts with China and now the EU are seen as the biggest threats to the economy, with 53% of those surveyed saying the trade wars will be to blame if a recession occurs. About 12% of respondents pointed to weaker global growth as a whole.

Those surveyed said they expect industrial production to slow from 4% in 2018 to just 0.9% in 2019, a major downward revision from June’s 2.4% estimates. The group also expects corporate profits to slow to 1.7% this year, a big drop off from June’s 4.6% forecasts.