Elga explains why we could see lower growth and higher inflation ahead in the U.S. Hint: trade tensions.
Signs of easing U.S.-China tensions have helped calm recessionary fears that gripped markets in recent weeks. We see little risk of an imminent recession, as ongoing policy support, the absence of obvious financial system vulnerabilities and resilient consumer spending helping extend the U.S. economic expansion. Yet a comprehensive U.S.-China trade deal is unlikely in the near term, and trade tensions could likely weigh on growth and pressure inflation, in our view. This could call for a more defensive investing stance.
Rising global trade tensions are spilling over into the U.S. manufacturing sector. This is reflected in the makeup of U.S. GDP growth. The contribution by capital expenditure and net exports turned negative in the second quarter, as the chart shows. The pace of inventory building is still on the rise, as businesses stock up ahead of expected further rises in tariffs. Consumer spending – making up over two thirds of the U.S. economy – is holding up well. Household leverage is limited, and there are no indications of over-extended spending on big-ticket goods as cars and appliances. This dynamic resembles 2015 and 2016, when strong consumer spending and services sector activity offset a contraction in industrial production. Yet there are key differences: Back then, we saw a deflationary combination of a strong U.S. dollar, overtightened policy in China and a collapse in oil prices. Today the shock is likely to be inflationary as it stems from tariffs and supply chain disruptions.