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U.S. Economy Inches Towards 1970s-style Crisis

U.S. Economy Inches Towards 1970s-style Crisis

Apr 30, 2024

U.S. Economy Inches Towards 1970s-style Crisis

As economic indicators flash red, the United States grapples with the specter of stagflation, a malady not seen since the 1970s, when the country endured a period of stagnation coupled with rampant inflation. Recent data suggests that the nation may be on the precipice of a similar fate, raising alarm among financial experts and policymakers alike.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) delivered a sobering report on the state of the economy last Thursday, revealing that the first quarter real GDP grew by a mere 1.6%, a figure significantly lower than the 3.1% and 2.4% growth anticipated by Goldman Sachs and Wall Street analysts, respectively. This sluggish growth barely keeps pace with population expansion, signaling a state of economic stagnation.


This downturn represents a sharp decline from the previous quarter's 3.4% growth, and an even steeper fall from the 4.9% growth rate observed in the autumn. Alarmingly, even these past 'rosy' numbers were fueled by considerable debt, both from consumer credit and government deficits, suggesting an artificial boost rather than genuine economic health.

Concurrently, the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, the Federal Reserve's favored inflation gauge, surged to an alarming 3.7% annualized rate for the quarter. This near-doubling of inflation over three months is perilously close to the worst quarterly average of 4.5% seen during President Biden's tenure, underscoring the intensifying inflationary pressures.

The market's response was swift and grim, with investors adjusting their expectations to preclude any interest rate cuts this year. This recalibration anticipates the continuation, if not exacerbation, of high borrowing costs, affecting mortgages, lines of credit, and credit cards, and potentially dampening economic activity even further.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has dampened hopes of a monetary policy reprieve in the near term, indicating the Fed is "in no rush to cut rates." Some, like former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, suggest the next move could even be a hike in interest rates.

The root of this economic malaise, according to some pundits, is Washington's fiscal policy. The bipartisan penchant for spending has been blamed for fueling inflation and stymieing growth. With the midterm elections approaching in November, only significant political shifts may pave the way for policy changes that could alleviate the current economic strains.


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