The latest Livingston Survey came out yesterday in Philadelphia. For 63 years, the semiannual report has taken the temperature of a panel of economists to predict gross domestic product, unemployment, inflation, interest rates, and stock market trends.
The new results are a mixed bag, predicting slow growth, low-grade inflation, and a flat stock market for the year to come.
It's not much to crow about, but this group apparently isn't seeing any cliffs on the path ahead, either.
The 39 participating economists represent academia and a fair cross section of industry, finance, and banking. They include DuPont Co.'s Robert Fry, Juan Gonzalez at the Tennessee Valley Authority, PNC Bank's Robert Dye, and Mark Zandi at Moody's Economy.com.
For anyone who wondered, the economy can hammer economists themselves. A steady turnover on the unpaid Livingston panel — there are 13 name changes between the June report and yesterday's — is due in part to the fact that "sometimes these guys lose their jobs," Tom Stark, who runs the survey for the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, told me.
Researchers love the Livingston Survey for its decades of data, Stark said. Others, including labor-contract negotiators and lawyers trying to set damage claims for their clients, look to it to predict inflation rates, he said.
A year from now, inflation will hover in the 2 percent range, according to the survey, which takes the median, or midpoint, among the individual predictions, as its "consensus" figure, Stark said.
Six months ago, the Livingstons hadn't seen the current 10 percent unemployment rate coming. They now say it will rise to 10.3 percent for this month will still be that high come June, and will fall only to 9.9 percent as 2010 winds down.
The Livingston economists say the U.S. economy as a whole — the country's gross domestic product — should grow at an annual rate of 3.1 percent for the second half of 2009. That's a dramatic increase from their consensus six months ago of 1.1 percent for the same period.
In 2010, they say GDP will be 2.6 percent for the first half of the year, and 3.0 percent for the second half. Not bad after a recession that began late in 2007.