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Around 34 percent of surveyed economists expect US recession in 2021

  • 19 Aug 2019

The financial markets signalled the possibility of a US recession last week, adding to concerns over ongoing trade tensions and word from Britain and Germany that their economies are shrinking.

In this May 10, 2019 file photo, China Shipping Company containers are stacked at the Virginia International's terminal in Portsmouth, US. ( AP Archive )

A number of US business economists appear sufficiently concerned about the risks of some of President Donald Trump's economic policies that they expect a recession in the US by the end of 2021.

Thirty-four percent of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics, in a report being released Monday, said they believe a slowing economy will tip into recession in 2021. 

That's up from 25 percent in a survey taken in February. Only 2 percent of those polled expect a recession to begin this year, while 38 percent predict that it will occur in 2020.

The economists have previously expressed concern that Trump's tariffs and higher budget deficits could eventually dampen the economy.

Tariff wars

The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on goods from many key US trading partners — from China and Europe to Mexico and Canada. 

Officials maintain that the tariffs, which are taxes on imports, will help the administration gain more favourable terms of trade. But US trading partners have simply retaliated with tariffs of their own.

Trade between the US and China, the two biggest global economies, has plunged. 

Trump decided on August 14 to postpone until December 15 tariffs on about 60 percent of an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports — granting a reprieve from a planned move that would have extended duties to nearly everything the US buys from China.

The financial markets signalled the possibility of a US recession last week, adding to concerns over the ongoing trade tensions and word from Britain and Germany that their economies are shrinking.

The economists surveyed by the NABE were sceptical about prospects for success of the latest round of US-China trade negotiations. 

Only 5 percent predicted that a comprehensive trade deal would result, 64 percent suggested a superficial agreement was possible, and nearly one quarter expected nothing to be agreed upon by the two countries.

The 226 respondents, who work mainly for corporations and trade associations, were surveyed between July 14 and August 1. 

That was before the White House announced 10 percent tariffs on the additional $300 billion of Chinese imports, the Chinese currency dipped below the seven-yuan-to-$1 level for the first time in 11 years, and the Trump administration formally labelled China a currency manipulator.

As a whole, the business economists' recent responses have represented a rebuke of the Trump administration's overall approach to the economy.

Still, for now, most economic signs appear solid. 

Employers are adding jobs at a steady pace, the unemployment rate remains near a 50-year low, and consumers are optimistic. 

US retail sales figures out last Thursday showed that they jumped in July by the most in four months.

The survey showed a steep decline in the percentage of economists who found the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade "too stimulative" and likely to produce higher budget deficits that should be reduced, to 51 percent currently from 71 percent in August 2018.

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