The National Association of Business Economists is the entity that officially determines when the US economy has gone into recession. So when this group makes predictions about future downturns, it carries more weight than, say, an estimate from an investment bank or research shop.
The group just released its Economic Policy Survey and the results are glum. Of the 98% of respondents who believe a recession will come after 2019, the panel is split over whether the downturn will hit in 2020 or 2021, according to NABE President Constance Hunter, who is also the chief economist of KPMG.
Sentiment has shifted for both monetary and fiscal policy from the last survey. The percentage of panelists who find current fiscal policy ‘too stimulative’ has declined from 71% in August 2018 to 51% in the current survey, Hunter said in prepared remarks. Just over one-third consider fiscal policy ‘about right,’ and 8% find it ‘too restrictive.
As for US monetary policy, a majority of respondents believe it is ‘about right,’ but the percentage holding this view has fallen from 75% in the previous two surveys to 62%, according to Survey Chair Megan Greene, senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center of Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. “The survey was conducted before the Federal Reserve’s rate cut on July 31; the majority of survey responses was received prior to that date,” she said. A plurality of panelists anticipates the upper end of the federal funds target rate will be 2% in 2019 and 2020, reflecting one more cut in 2019. Survey respondents are nearly unanimous in their support of the Federal Reserve continuing to have congressional oversight and policy independence, according to Greene.
One unknown is Brexit. Eight out of 10 respondents indicate that Brexit is a foregone conclusion, with a plurality (40%) expecting a no deal Brexit—i.e., the UK crashes out of the EU with no divorce agreement. “This is not in line with current market pricing,” Greene said.