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On the Brink of Stagnation: Alarming Economic Forecast from The Conference Board

On the Brink of Stagnation: Alarming Economic Forecast from The Conference Board

Feb 29, 2024

On the Brink of Stagnation: Alarming Economic Forecast from The Conference Board

In an alarming revelation from The Conference Board, a prestigious economic forecasting group with a century-old pedigree, the latest indicators suggest an imminent economic stagnation as consumer confidence takes a nosedive. The group, whose origins can be traced back to 1916, has been a reliable harbinger of economic shifts, outshining government data with its impressive track record of recession predictions since the mid-1980s, save for a couple of near misses in 1986 and 2016.

The dire statistics for February reveal a 3.8% plummet in consumer confidence, a historic downward revision that underscores a significantly bleaker picture of consumer sentiment than previously believed. Concomitantly, a reduction in workweek hours hints at looming layoffs, while decreases in manufacturing orders, building permits, consumer expectations, and an adverse interest rate spread further corroborate the recessionary prognosis.

Despite these ominous signs, a few anomalies persist, such as inflating stock prices—a familiar precursor to economic inflation—and abundant credit for large corporations contrasted by exorbitant loan rates burdening average consumers. Yet, these are mere glimmers in an otherwise dark forecast, as the leading indicators index languishes in the negative for the 22nd consecutive month, a streak only outdone by the financial crises of 2008 and the 1970s.

The root causes are multifaceted, from persistently high interest rates battling unyielding inflation to rampant government expenditure that, while inflating GDP figures, fails to line the pockets of American consumers. Extravagant spending on immigration, foreign aid like that to Ukraine, and domestic policies such as environmental regulations are criticized as detriments to the real economy, effectively impoverishing the nation while masquerading as growth.

Despite the bleak outlook, The Conference Board stops short of forecasting a full-blown recession for 2024, projecting instead "near zero growth." This cautious prediction hinges on the government's spendthrift ways, which, while propping up GDP, do not reflect the true state of consumer welfare. Inflation's resurgence threatens to further undermine this tepid growth, raising fears of a protracted period of 1970s-style stagflation coupled with a 2008-esque global financial crisis—a combination that could set the economy back to the depths of the 1930s.

In the face of these daunting indicators, the economic future hangs in the balance, with inflation poised as the decisive factor. The specter of a dual threat—a stagnant or contracting economy—looms over 2023, leaving analysts and consumers alike bracing for the uncertain year ahead.


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