Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Nov 17, 2023

2024 U.S. Economic Outlook


Welcome to Thoughts on the market. I'm Ellen Zentner. Morgan Stanley's Chief U.S. Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today, I'll discuss our 2024 outlook for the U.S. economy. It's Friday, November 17th at 10 a.m. in New York.

You may remember that back in March 2022, we called for a soft landing for the U.S. economy. And we still maintain this view, even though strains in the economy are becoming more noticeable and recession fears remain alive. And that's because the Fed's monetary policy is weighing increasingly on growth and especially next year. High rates for longer are causing a persistent drag, bringing growth sustainably below potential over our forecast horizon. We forecast that U.S. GDP growth slows from an estimated 2.5% this year on a Q4 over Q4 basis to 1.6% in 2024 and 1.4% in 2025.

We also expect U.S. consumer spending to begin to slow more meaningfully in 2024 and 2025, driven by a cooling labor market which weighs on real disposable income and elevated rates, putting further pressure on debt service costs.

But there are some positive indicators for the year ahead as well. We think that business investment and equipment will finally turn positive by the second half of next year following two years of decline, while the surge in nonresidential construction should move to a lower but more sustainable pace. Bank lending conditions have tightened sharply for the past year, but in public credit markets, many businesses refinanced while rates were still low.

Turning to the housing market, we expect home sales to be weak in the first half of next year, but activity should pick up in the second half and further into 2025. And that's primarily because affordability will improve. We also think homebuilding activity will be stronger in the second half of next year. Home prices should see modest declines as growth in inventory offsets the increase in demand. By 2025 with lower rates existing home sales should rise more convincingly.

We see job growth slowing throughout the forecast horizon, although we expect the unemployment rate to remain low because companies will still be focused on retaining headcount. And the labor force participation rate should continue to recover, with real wage growth increasing in 2024 and 2025.

Now, inflation, which was at record highs last year, has been decelerating, mainly driven by core goods deflation and disinflation in housing. We expect negative monthly data releases for core goods inflation through the forecast horizon.

So we continue to think that the Fed is done here, that back in July of this year, the funds rate peaked at 5.375% for this cycle, and we think they're on hold now until June 2024, when we expect the Fed to take its first cautious step with a 25 basis point cut, followed by a 25 basis point cut one quarter later in September. In the fourth quarter of 2024, the Fed will likely begin cutting 25 basis points every meeting, eventually bringing the real rate to .4% by the fourth quarter of 2025, when core inflation, GDP growth and unemployment are near neutral.

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Our Chief U.S. Economist previews the key economic themes of 2024, including potential rate cuts, housing affordability, job growth and more.