Recession Not on the Horizon, Economists Agree

“Is the U.S. economy going into a recession?” asked economist Lisa Emsbo-Mattingly, repeating the leadoff question at the first “Crain’s Economic Outlook” event at the InterContinental Hotel in Cleveland on Wednesday, Feb. 2.

“No,” she said. “But the dynamics of the economy are changing.”

As the session progressed, Emsbo-Mattingly, director of research and global asset allocation at Fidelity Investments of Boston, and Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation and principal of Kleinhenz & Associates of Cleveland Heights, elaborated on that theme, telling the audience of 125 economists and business leaders that different industries and different levels of the global economy — international, nationwide and regional — do not move in lockstep and that all of those pieces are continuously moving up and down.

Proving the point, she added that, despite her positive sense of the broad U.S. economy, “Manufacturing essentially is in a recession.”

A frequent, up-close observer of the Chinese economy, Emsbo-Mattingly said what happens there will have an impact throughout the world.

Closer to home, Kleinhenz added that he sees “not stellar growth, but good growth,” for the Northeast Ohio economy in 2016.

And Kleinhenz took a little shine off any rosy outlook by pointing out that the economy is in its seventh year of expansion and, “Most expansions don’t die of old age.”

The discussion turned to the outlook for personal investment and how investors should be allocating their assets for the year ahead.

“That’s a tough question to answer,” said Emsbo-Mattingly, who is currently president of the National Association of Business Economics. “It’s an extremely volatile market. A big factor in that is the slowing growth of the Chinese economy.”

Politics was on the mind of one questioner, who asked about how the results of this year’s presidential election might affect the economy. Both economists agreed that the economy won’t strengthen or weaken based on who wins.

“I don’t think whoever wins will make a difference,” Kleinhenz said.