US Economy Staring at Recession as GDP Growth Slows

The US economy is at an inflection point and at risk of plunging into recession. Those are sentiments echoed by strategists in the aftermath of the economy slowing down considerably in the first three months of the year. The Commerce Department reported that the Gross Domestic Product rose at an annualized pace of 1.1% in the first quarter, lower than the 2% that economists surveyed by the Dow Jones expected.

GDP Growth Slowdown

In the fourth quarter, the US GDP climbed 2.6%. A significant slowdown in GDP growth in Q1 is being attributed to a significant drop in private inventory investment. A decline in nonresidential fixed investment has also had an impact. The report showed that inventory slowdown took 2.26% points off the headline number.

The slowdown in GDP, which measures all goods and services produced, was also influenced by a significant increase in interest rates by the US Federal Reserve. The FED had no option but to aggressively hike interest rates in the race to tame inflation that had risen to four-decade highs of 9.2%

The increase has seen the benchmark rate average between 4.75% and 5%, something that is piling pressure on the economy. For starters, the increase has taken a significant toll on the economy as borrowing costs have increased significantly. Businesses and individuals are struggling to access cheap capital needed to stimulate activity. While inflation has dropped significantly to about 5%, it is still high despite the high-interest levels in play.

FED Inflation and Recession Dilemma

Amid the high inflation levels, the personal consumption expenditures price index, another measure of inflation, was up in the first quarter to 4.2% against the 3.7% expected. The increase signifies that consumers continue spending much more on goods despite the significant price increase. The high spending signifies strong demand in the market even though the FED has been trying to increase interest rates to try and tame spending.

According to the chief economist at LPL Financial, Jeffrey Roach, the US economy is at an inflection point as consumer spending slowly softens. Consumers have been growing pessimistic about the state of the economy since the start of the year.

Attention now shifts towards the FED, which faces an uphill task in balancing between taming the high inflation and preventing the economy from tipping into recession. The increase in interest rates to 16-year highs has so far failed to pull inflation below the 2% recommended level. With inflation still high, the FED has no option but to continue hiking interest rates even though it could lead to a further economic slowdown.

Recession bells are sounding louder by the day amid the banking sector’s troubles. Silicon Valley Bank going under has once again underscored the fragility of the financial sector, something that could take a toll on the economy going forward. Moreover, the expected credit crunch amid the banking crisis could pile more pressure on the fragile economy.

Nevertheless, consumers can use their excess savings and purchasing power to shorten any possible economic contraction. In addition, a strong jobs market and a decline in the employment rate below 3.5% should further support the economy.

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