The OECD released its latest Economic Outlook today. Though some fear that falling house prices and the global credit crunch might drive the US into a recession, that view is not shared in Paris. Their US forecast expects weakness in the US housing sector to drag down growth in the near term but it "is unlikely to trigger a recession". GDP growth is forecast to 2.0% in 2008. Private consumption will be weak - but public and non-residential investment should remain quite perky, and the cheap US dollar will see net exports add to growth next year just as it they have this year. Here's their summmary of the US outlook:
Healthy gains in private consumption have helped to keep GDP growth above trend thus far this year. However, the correction in residential construction is likely to accelerate over the near term, and housing wealth could decline which, together with weaker labour market conditions, could lead to lower consumption growth over time. GDP should therefore slow to a pace below potential in 2008 and then recover in 2009, although there are considerable downside risks.
This assessment is broadly in line with recent Federal Reserve and private sector forecasts. An outside risk of recession, to be sure - but not considered that likely. (For another recent official US economic overview, see yesterday's Congressional testimony by CBO Director Peter R. Orszag).
But what about the overall economic outlook? You can watch a webcast of the news conference by OECD's acting Chief Economist Jorgen Elmeskov here. Or just read his 18 page handout (PDF), which contained this precis:
Several shocks have hit OECD economies recently: financial turmoil, cooling housing markets, and higher prices of energy and other commodities. Fortunately, they have occurred at a time when growth was being supported by high employment that boosts income and consumption; by high profits and strong balance sheets that underpin investment and resilience in the face of financial losses and tighter credit; and by still buoyant world trade driven by robust growth in emerging economies. Hence, although near-term growth has been revised down virtually everywhere in the OECD area, the baseline scenario depicted in this Economic Outlook is actually not that bad in view of the recent shocks.
Of course, as the accompanying chartset makes very clear, there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned. Energy and commodity prices have surged, headline inflation has picked up, credit conditions are tight, house prices are decelerating, consumer confidence is softening, and job creation is slowing. Against that, fiscal positions have improved and world trade is buoyant.
It's not the end of the world, but it's not exactly time to crack open the champers either. Or as Elmeskov put it at the news conference: “It’s not a recession but obviously it’s not going to feel all that great either.”