COVID REALIGNMENT CONTINUES
Economic expansion returned in the third quarter after two consecutive declines. The latest GDP report came in at 2.6%, bringing growth to just above zero for the year. Echoes of the COVID era were evident throughout the report as excesses and scarcities moved into balance. Residential construction, a boon during the pandemic, slowed to a halt as higher interest rates and lack of supply put housing out of reach for most. Consumers slowed their goods purchases leading to a significant drawdown in inventories for the quarter. However, the weakness in goods expenditures was balanced by expanding services spending for travel, dining, and other experiences. The most significant positive contributor was in trade, with imports and exports growing as supply chains continued to heal. While growth has been weak this year, context is essential. 2021 saw the strongest annual growth since 1984, making for a particularly challenging comparable period. Add to that interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve at the fastest pace since 1981. A flat growth rate may be the best medicine for the economy as it rebalances.
A TALE OF TWO ECONOMIES
It is the best of times for workers, with almost two job openings for every unemployed. It is the worst of times for consumers as they deal with higher energy, food, and housing costs. If a recession comes in 2023, it will be one of the most anticipated in history. The Fed’s interest rate increases significantly impacted home construction, sales, and vehicle purchases. The jury is still out as to whether we will fall into recession, but history is not our friend. As we have stated in previous writeups, the Fed needs to pause to assess the impact of interest rate increases made to date. If there is a recession it should be brief and mild for a few reasons:
- Economists estimate that roughly ¾ of the pandemic relief payments remain in savings.
- The tight labor market makes companies less likely to lay off existing workers.
- The $1.2T infrastructure bill passed by Congress has barely begun to work its way into spending.
The first half of 2022 saw the economy shrink, only to come back to even during the third quarter. Consumer spending continues to shift from goods to services causing many retailers to discount their inventories. Supply chains continue to improve, with some producers now seeing surplus deliveries. Job gains have slowed in recent months and there are a few recent signs of slowing inflation. We hope this combination will give the Fed enough impetus to pause their rate hikes. We expect any recession in the coming year will be mild.