U.S. Economy: Who Would You Rather Listen to?

by: Michael Panzner

OK, time for a pop quiz.

When it comes to figuring out where things are headed, would you rather listen to these guys:

"U.S. Economy to Strengthen, Reducing Unemployment, Survey Says" (Bloomberg)

U.S. unemployment peaked in October and will retreat through 2011 as the economy strengthens, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

The world’s largest economy will grow 3 percent this year and next, more than anticipated a month ago, according to the median estimate of 62 economists polled this month. The jobless rate, which reached a 26-year high of 10.1 percent in October, will end the year at 9.5 percent.

Efforts to rebuild inventories, investments in new equipment and software and improving sales overseas will spur employment and household spending. Scant inflation will give Federal Reserve policy makers room to keep the target interest rate near zero through the third quarter, buying the economy enough time to reach a self-sustaining expansion.

“It’s a matter of time before strength in the economy effectively feeds on itself, with more employment leading to stronger spending, which in turn leads to more employment,” said James O’Sullivan, global chief economist at MF Global Ltd. in New York. “The key is going to be the business sector leading the way and consumer spending following.”

"U.S. to Grow 3 Percent This Year From Year Ago, Fed Survey Shows" (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

The U.S. economy will grow 3 percent this year from a year earlier, faster than previously predicted, according to a survey of economists released today by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The 42 respondents also expected a “slightly stronger labor market” this year than they did in the fourth quarter, the Philadelphia Fed said in a statement. The outlook for gross domestic product was more optimistic than the forecast in the fourth quarter of last year for 2.4 percent growth in 2010, it said. The U.S. unemployment rate will average 9.8 percent this year, the survey showed.

Or these guys [italics mine]:

"Corporate America Is More Pessimistic Than You Know" (Deal Journal)

Looking for an explanation for the deep freeze in merger & acquisition activity and the jittery stock market? Just ask the boards overseeing U.S. companies.

A whopping 66% of 1,200 corporate board members surveyed recently said U.S. companies wouldn’t return to “business as usual” until at least 2013, and will operate till then in an environment of sluggish sales and growth. Roughly 45% said the economy wouldn’t return to precrisis levels in terms of investment, employment and productivity before 2013, according to the survey, conducted by KPMG LLP, while 22% said it would come beyond 2014.

“Not withstanding what economists are saying about the recovery, we are hearing from board members that they just don’t see it,’’ says Mary Pat McCarthy, a KPMG vice chairwoman who oversaw the survey of directors at publicly traded companies of varying sizes across the U.S.

McCarthy spoke to Deal Journal this morning from Miami where KPMG was hosting a conference of primarily audit committee members of corporate boards. “We are hearing a steady drumbeat down here that a recovery is a way’s off,” she said.

Another concern among board members: That the cost-cutting and layoffs that have helped boost corporate profits are going to hurt companies in the long term. The survey found that 67% of the respondents said were most concerned that cost-cutting would drain a company’s employee talent.

Yeah, I thought so.