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Update: Ten Economic Questions for 2018 #wdym

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Note: I’ll be on Bloomberg’s #wdym today.

Here is a review of the Ten Economic Questions for 2017.

Here are my ten questions for 2018. See links at bottom for a follow up, with some thoughts on each of these questions.

The purpose of these questions is to provide a framework to think about how the U.S. economy will perform in 2018, and – when there are surprises – to adjust my thinking.

1) Economic growth: Heading into 2018, most analysts are pretty sanguine and expecting some pickup in growth due to the recent tax cuts.  From Goldman Sachs:

“We are adjusting our forecasts to reflect the final details of the tax bill, as well as the incremental easing in financial conditions and continued strong economic momentum to end the year. We are increasing our GDP forecasts for 2018 and 2019 by 0.3pp and 0.2pp, respectively, on a Q4/Q4 basis (to 2.6% and 1.7%).”

How much will the economy grow in 2018?

2) Employment: Through November, the economy has added just over 1,900,000 jobs this year, or 174,000 per month. As expected, this was down from the 187 thousand per month in 2016.  Will job creation in 2018 be as strong as in 2017?  Or will job creation be even stronger, like in 2014 or 2015?  Or will job creation slow further in 2018?

3) Unemployment Rate: The unemployment rate was at 4.1% in November, down 0.5 percentage points year-over-year.  Currently the FOMC is forecasting the unemployment rate will be in the 3.7% to 4.0% range in Q4 2018.  What will the unemployment rate be in December 2018?

4) Inflation: The inflation rate has increased a little recently, and some key measures are now close to the the Fed’s 2% target. Will core inflation rate rise in 2018? Will too much inflation be a concern in 2018?

5) Monetary Policy:  The Fed raised rates three times in 2017 and started to reduce their balance sheet. The Fed is forecasting three more rate hikes in 2018.  Some analysts think there will be more, from Goldman Sachs:

“We expect the next rate hike to come in March with subjective odds of 75%, and we continue to expect a total of four hikes in 2018.”

Will the Fed raise rates in 2018, and if so, by how much?

6) Real Wage Growth: Wage growth picked up in 2016 (up 2.9%), but slowed in 2017 (up 2.5% year-over-year in November).  How much will wages increase in 2018?

7) Residential Investment: Residential investment (RI) was sluggish in 2017, although new home sales were up solidly.  Note: RI is mostly investment in new single family structures, multifamily structures, home improvement and commissions on existing home sales.  How much will RI increase in 2018?  How about housing starts and new home sales in 2018?

8) House Prices: It appears house prices – as measured by the national repeat sales index (Case-Shiller, CoreLogic) - will be up over 6% in 2017.   What will happen with house prices in 2018?

9) Housing Inventory: Housing inventory declined in 2015, 2016 and 2017.  Will inventory increase or decrease in 2018?

10) Housing and Taxes A key change in the new tax law is limiting the deductibility of State and Local Taxes (SALT) and property taxes to ,000. Many analysts think this will hit certain segments of the housing market in states like New York, New Jersey and California. The NAR noted their forecast today:

“Heading into 2018, existing-home sales and price growth are forecast to slow, primarily because of the altered tax benefits of homeownership affecting some high-cost areas.”

Relative to the overall market, will sales slow, inventory increase, and price growth slow in these states?

There are other important questions, but these are the ones I’m focused on right now.

Here is some discussion and a few predictions:

• Question #1 for 2018: How much will the economy grow in 2018?
• Question #2 for 2018: Will job creation slow further in 2018?
• Question #3 for 2018: What will the unemployment rate be in December 2018?
• Question #4 for 2018: Will the core inflation rate rise in 2018? Will too much inflation be a concern in 2018?
• Question #5 for 2018: Will the Fed raise rates in 2018, and if so, by how much?
• Question #6 for 2018: How much will wages increase in 2018?
• Question #7 for 2018: How much will Residential Investment increase?
• Question #8 for 2018: What will happen with house prices in 2018?
• Question #9 for 2018: Will housing inventory increase or decrease in 2018?
• Question #10 for 2018: Will the New Tax Law impact Home Sales, Inventory, and Price Growth in Certain States?
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