A recent survey by Smart Brief and the international market research firm Ipsos of 841 financial professionals found that 67 percent think that stock prices will rise this year and that the country’s economic output will increase by 65 percent; another 59 percent said they expect unemployment to decrease slightly in the next 12 months. The survey found that even such modest optimism is tempered by expectations of rising health care costs (88 percent); higher fuel prices (85 percent); rising prices for durable goods such as appliances, automobiles and consumer electronics (72 percent); and slightly higher interest rates (59 percent). Additionally, 43 percent expect home prices to continue declining, while only 21 percent expect them to rebound; 34 percent expect no change. By a margin of 70 percent – 30percent, respondents oppose allowing states to declare bankruptcy; 77 percent expect the nuclear disaster in Japan to drive greater investment and funding into renewable energy.
“Financial professionals are cautiously optimistic about economic prospects in the near term; indeed, they think that the overall scenario will improve, and they’re making business decisions on that basis, such as increased investment and hiring,” said Ipsos Managing Director Cliff Young. “That being said, there are still concerns in the short to medium term about the increased costs of inputs such as fuel and durable goods.”
Larry Summers, former president of Harvard and architect of the Obama administration’s stimulus plan agrees, noting that “An economy in economic freefall has now recovered for 18 months,” he said. “Make no mistake, the American economy has a feeling of normalcy that was completely absent in 2009 and that is a substantial achievement.” Summers warned that the nation faces new challenges, including reducing the 8.9 percent unemployment rate, which he said is “far, far too high.” He said it will be important for the US — and Massachusetts, in particular — to keep the life sciences industry strong.
To keep the recovery on track, the International Monetary Fund urged the United States to speed up efforts to slash the budget deficit. “It is important the United States undertakes fiscal adjustment sooner rather than later,” said Carlo Cottarelli, director of the IMF Fiscal Affairs Department, the U.S. is projected to have a fiscal debt balance as a percentage of GDP of 10.8 percent in 2011, the biggest percentage among advanced countries. “Market concerns about sustainability remain subdued in the United States, but a further delay in action could be fiscally costly,” the IMF said.
According to the IMF, although most advanced economies have taken steps to tighten budget gaps, two of world’s largest economies — Japan and the United States — had delayed action to maintain their recoveries. “Countries delaying adjustment in 2011 will face more significant challenges to meet their medium-term objectives,” the IMF warned in its updated “Fiscal Monitor” report.