So what next? When does the U.S. economy start to return to normal after the shutdowns resulting from the coronavirus epidemic?
Here’s the optimistic view on what will happen in the next six to nine months.
Not for the next few months. The government still doesn’t know how widely the coronavirus has spread across America because of repeated snafus creating a test and it will take time to contain it. Until then large parts of the economy —schools, sports leagues, workplaces, cultural sites — are likely to remain shut down or operating on a limited basis.
The result: The economy could shrink as much as 4% to 5% in the second quarter and trigger a sharp increase in unemployment, according to the most pessimistic Wall Street forecasts. The last time that happened was during the 2007-2009 Great Recession.
“There’s going to be a lot of bad news in the next three to four months,” said David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth Management. “It will be pretty ugly. It is sure going to feel like a recession for awhile.”
The good news?
The vast majority of economists predict the U.S. will start to rebound later in the year, though they are split over how soon and how fast. Some like Donabedian see a rapid recovery starting in the summer. Others predict a short recession that extends through the fall.
The more optimistic view is based on the assumption that the U.S. approach to containing the coronavirus more closely mirrors that of South Korea or Hong Kong than Italy or Iran.
In South Korea and Hong Kong, widespread testing, quarantines and “social distancing” appear to have dramatically reduced the increase in new cases. By contrast, Italy and Iran were slower to adopt tough measures to bottle up the virus.
“Some countries have proven that if you take precautionary measures such as social distancing you can get in front of this virus and contain it or at least slow it down,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
If the U.S. achieves the same success as say, South Korea, the hope is that spread of the coronavirus will taper off by early summer, when illnesses such as the flu and cold also tend to weaken because of the heat and humidity.
“Warm weather could alleviate the condition somewhat,” said Donabedian, giving drug companies more time to come up with treatments. It would also put the U.S. medical system in better position to cope with the COVID-19 illness if it returns in the fall.
The more optimistic scenario also assumes Congress and the Federal Reserve take unprecedented steps to shore up the economy through the worst of the crisis.
The Fed has already cut a key interest rate on March 3 and could reduce it to basically zero by next week. The lowest rates in modern times is already encouraging a fusillade of mortgage refinancings that will put more money in family’s pockets.
Even more important is the response from Congress and the White House. President Trump on Friday declared a rare national emergency to provide up to $50 billion in aid to the areas hit hardest by the coronavirus.
Congress, for its part, is assembling what’s likely to be the first in a series of steps to cushion the blow to individuals and businesses most likely to suffer. A pending bill includes free testing, paid sick leave, emergency jobless benefits and small-business bridge loans.
Economists says an overwhelming federal response is critical.
“An extremely strong safety net, even if it’s only temporary, is going to keep people spending and paying their bills and also provide a psychological safety net that is crucial,” said Robert Frick, chief economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.
If the U.S. response is effective, the economy could start to recover from July onward, with the stock market
offering early telltale signs. U.S. economic growth could return to the 2% pace that’s prevailed over the past decade before the end of the year.
“We think we will see a nice bounce back in the third quarter,” Guatieri said.
Still, even relative optimists such as Guatieri say there’s still too much uncertainty to feel confident. He and Wells Fargo’s Bullard say their firms have been changing their forecasts almost daily in the past week as the situation deteriorated. What’s made matters worse is simply not knowing the scope of the problem
“We’re not getting the insight into where we are or where we are going,” Bullard said. “So we’re all just speculating.”
$71B wage subsidy 'appropriate' to keep economy afloat: Morneau – BNNBloomberg.ca
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the ballooning cost of federal measures being promised to workers impacted by COVID-19 is essential to keeping the Canadian economy afloat.
“I’m worried about the size of the investment, always,” Morneau told BNN Bloomberg in an interview on Wednesday. “I’m also worried about not only the numerator, but the denominator: The size of the economy. That economy is what we’re focused on at the end.”
“These are some of the biggest expenditures that have ever been done in Canadian history. We recognize that. But it’s the appropriate thing to do at this time, and once we’re through this, we will have to make sure that we get ourselves back on an appropriate track.”
Morneau unveiled some crucial details about the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy on Wednesday, pegging the cost of the program that’s meant to cushion the blow from COVID-19 at $71 billion.
In a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Morneau said he expects funds will begin to flow in approximately six weeks, and that employers that apply will have to show their revenue fell at least 30 per cent compared to the same month last year. He confirmed that funds will be sent to employers via direct deposit from the Canada Revenue Agency.
A senior government official said during a technical briefing call that the funds could be delivered as early as three weeks, but it depends on how quick the CRA can launch the system for businesses to apply for the subsidy.
The official added that the CRA will offer some “flexibility” to high-growth businesses that don’t have a full year of operations in place to compare a year’s worth of revenue, suggesting prior monthly sales figures could be used instead.
Morneau said the government’s focus now has to be offering a lifeline to Canadians and Canadian businesses as soon as possible.
“I have been very focused during my time as finance minister to manage our fiscal position, to make sure we reduce our debt as a function of our economy. Well, that’s not where we are today,” he said.
“Where we are today is: I am focused on making sure people have enough money to pay for their groceries and their rent. I’m trying to make sure that we have a process that will get that money out to people rapidly.”
The revised wage subsidy program was unveiled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Mar. 27 and will subsidize 75 per cent of wages for qualifying businesses up to a period of three months. It will be retroactive to March 15 and will cover the first $58,700 of salary up to a maximum of $847 per week.
The federal government had initially planned a subsidy of 10 per cent, which was quickly panned by small business leaders as insufficient. Nonetheless, the government confirmed Wednesday that the 10 per cent subsidy will still be available to employers that don’t qualify for the 75 per cent subsidy.
Morneau added that there will be “severe penalties” for anyone who seeks to use the funds fraudulently. However, specifics on how businesses will be penalized were not announced on Wednesday.
China's economy may not grow at all in 2020. That hasn't happened in 44 years – CNN
More help needed
Tens of millions of jobs at risk
‘There could be a rapid bounce back’: Experts believe economy can recover fast after pandemic – CityNews Vancouver
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While there’s a lot of financial uncertainty for many people in the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be reason for optimism.
At least two economists believe Canada’s economy can bounce back quickly, once the pandemic ends.
“The good news is that if the coronavirus public health issue gets resolved, I think there will be a fast recovery,” says James Brander, Professor at the Sauder School of Business at UBC. “I think the governments are doing the right things to keep in place the possibility of a fast recovery, so there’s no reason why we can’t bounce back quickly.”
The main question, of course, is when that will happen.
“There’s some reason for optimism that there could be a sharp expansion but that depends very much on the public health situation and that of course is very uncertain,” adds Brander.
Mark Thompson, professor emeritus of Industrial Relations at the Sauder School of Business at UBC agrees a fast recovery is possible.
“I mean, the economy was in pretty good shape when this all happened and I think the demand is still there and the industries that have been forced to close can reopen,” he says. “In the past, recessions we’ve had tended to be sharp but not long lasting and I think that’s what’s going to happen here.”
However, despite the glimmer of hope, both economists admit the current situation is bleak, and there will still be struggles ahead before we’re able to bounce back.
“We’re seeing a sharper downturn than we’ve seen probably since the 1930s,” says Brander. “For the past week there will be in Canada approximately 1 million jobless claims. That’s approximately double the previous record.”
Brander adds financial help coming from the federal government will help people stay afloat.
“There’s enough in place for people to survive. Not feel good, but survive for a few months and we hope that things are looking better after two or three months,” he says.
Thompson also believes help coming from some provinces and Ottawa is a good start, but thinks more will be necessary depending on how long the pandemic lasts.
“The government, I think, is acting fairly vigorously and the focus on the employees who are losing their jobs and the small businesses who may collapse if this goes on is all very good,” he says. “I don’t think anybody believes that these measures are sufficient or that there won’t be more measures required in the future.”
Thompson adds a lot of what happens in the next few months will depend on the length and severity of the crisis.
“I guess if I knew that, I would make a lot of money in the stock market or something, if I could predict the future,” Thompson says.
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