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Bank of America says U.S. will fall into ‘mild recession’ this year, unemployment to 4.6% in 2023

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Inflation pressures on the U.S. consumer will push the economy into a recession this year, according to Bank of America. The bank’s economists, led by U.S. economist Michael Gapen, lowered their outlook for the U.S. on Wednesday. The economists said in a note to clients that the U.S. will see negative real GDP growth for 2022, leading to job losses. “We now forecast a mild recession in the US economy this year and expect 4Q/4Q real GDP in 2022 to decline 1.4%, followed by an increase of 1.0% in 2023. In terms of labor markets, the combination of a moderate downturn this year and below-trend growth for much of next year pushes the unemployment rate 1pp higher from 3.6% currently to 4.6%,” the note said. First-quarter GDP already came in negative for the U.S. , and the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow tracker estimates the second quarter to show -1.2% growth. Bank of America said that incoming economic data shows momentum slowing for the U.S. economy and that inflation appears to be taking a bite out of consumer spending. “Perhaps most worrisome to us is the trend in services spending, where revisions to prior data and incoming data, including from our BAC aggregated credit and debit card data, point to less momentum than we had been assuming. … We think at least some of the decline in momentum in consumer spending is due to the ‘inflation tax,'” the note said. Bank of America added that less fiscal stimulus and the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes were also contributing to the economic slowdown. The firm’s projected jump in unemployment would be much faster than the Fed’s expectation. In its June projections, the central bank said it expected unemployment to rise to 4.1% in 2024. On the positive side, Bank of America said that a mild recession and continued normalization of the supply chain could lead to inflation falling significantly by the middle of next year, possibly allowing the Fed to cut interest rates. The bank’s economists also said that a so-called “soft landing” was still on the table. “We think the most likely alternative to our baseline outlook includes a US economy that avoids a near-term slowdown and requires a second round of tightening, perhaps in late 2023 or into 2024,” the note said. — CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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