National and Macroeconomic Overview
There is no more recurrent question posed in real estate analysis than, “Where are we in the cycle?” The mood amongst economic forecasters can best be described as “benign.” While there is a general consensus that the present expansion is getting long in the tooth, at 96 months and counting, most (correctly) assert that business cycles do not die of old age. For the record, this is already the third longest upcycle since 1850. But it is also the weakest since World War II. The upcycle of the 1990s reached 120 months, but averaged 3.6% annual real GDP growth over that decade. The recovery since the Global Financial Crisis has averaged a bit under 2.1% annually. Given slower labor force growth (even absent a lower participation rate) and decelerating productivity improvements, the baseline growth in the years ahead appears to be in the 1.7% – 1.9% range. Expectations of a return to the growth of the 1990s simply cannot be justified in the numbers.
Some comfort is being taken by the absence of typical signs of economic overheating that often precede recessions. Inflation remains quiescent, with low energy prices driving prices at the gas pump down to near $2.00 per gallon during the peak summer travel season. The Federal Reserve has been gradually raising its benchmark rates, but is being careful to avoid squeezing economic growth in the process. The “Trump Bump” in stock prices has shown staying power on Wall Street, but as the year advances it becomes clearer that the agenda of tax reform, infrastructure spending, Dodd-Frank rollback, and entitlement reduction will not be accomplished in 2017. Hence, there is probably greater fragility in the economy than the consensus acknowledges and risk is present from either domestic disappointments or international disruption.
Read more: Central_2017_Q2_State_of_Market_web
Economist Hugh F. Kelly PhD, CRE, who leads TCN’s Real Estate Economic Committee, is Clinical Professor at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate where he has taught for 30 years. He is widely cited in the real estate industry and is a frequent speaker around the world.