Goldman Sachs still believes in the New Normal despite rosier growth forecast

December 15, 2009

Goldman Sachs has boosted its 4Q GDP outlook to 4 percent from 3 percent, yet continues to believe in the gloomy New Normal. Here’s why:

By our estimates, fiscal policy contributed around 2½ percentage points (annualized) to real final demand growth in the second half of 2009. …  The conclusion thus seems to be that fiscal policy has been responsible for most, if not all, of the growth of final demand in the second half of 2009.

While fiscal policy will remain supportive to growth for most of 2010, the size of this boost is set to decline, modestly in the first half and sharply in the second half. (Indeed, our current estimates imply a negative impact in the fourth quarter, although this is obviously subject to new congressional initiatives as the midterm elections approach.) This means that we need an underlying improvement in final demand just to offset the impact of policy through 2010. While we do expect such an improvement, we believe it will be U-shaped rather than V-shaped and hence insufficient to produce an acceleration in final demand growth once the fiscal pattern is taken into account.

Me: Moreover, the firm still thinks job growth will only average 100k a month, not counting census temps. If that number shot up to, say, 250k a month — a level that would really start lowering the unemployment rate, the firm said it might change its view that the private economy was still muddling through at a 2 percent GDP rate without government steroids.

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