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US growth outlook weakens in survey of business economists

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Forecasters are less optimistic about the US expansion this year, though they're nearly unanimous in their expectations that a recession can be kept at bay at bay until at least 2020, a National Association for Business Economics survey showed on Monday.

[WASHINGTON] Forecasters are less optimistic about the US expansion this year, though they're nearly unanimous in their expectations that a recession can be kept at bay at bay until at least 2020, a National Association for Business Economics survey showed on Monday.

Two-thirds of respondents expect growth to exceed 2 per cent this year, down from the 90 per cent in the prior survey for the 12 months through the third quarter of 2019, according to the Dec 17-Jan. 9 survey of 106 NABE members.

"After a year of robust capital spending, business investment has cooled a bit, and expectations for the next three months slackened similarly," NABE president Kevin Swift, chief economist at the American Chemistry Council, said in a statement released along with the survey.

"Fewer firms increased capital spending compared to the October survey responses, but the cutback appeared to be concentrated more in structures than in information and communication technology investments," Mr Swift said.

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The results follow reports showing that US manufacturing slumped in December, while consumer sentiment has weakened as the US-China trade war and record overnment shutdown fuel uncertainty. JPMorgan Chase & Co and Barclays both cut their first-quarter growth projections last week, citing the effects of the partial closure.

Other takeaways from the survey showed:

• 84 per cent of respondents said that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act hasn't spurred plans to change hiring or investment.

• 77 per cent said trade concerns haven't caused their companies to change investment, hiring, or pricing, similar to the prior survey.

• 53 per cent report skilled labor shortages at their firms, the most since October 2000 and up from 47 per cent in October.

• 47 per cent said sales at their firms rose in the final quarter of last year, down from 61 per cent in the October survey.

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