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U.S. lowers predictions for growth

New York Times | JUNE 10, 2005
By Edmund L. Andrews

The Bush administration has trimmed its six-month-old prediction for U.S. economic growth but raised hopes that the federal budget deficit will shrink in 2005 for the first time in four years.

The administration's new forecast, issued Wednesday, calls for the economy to expand 3.4 percent in 2005, down from 3.9 percent in 2004 and slightly below its forecast in December of 3.5 percent. It said consumer prices would rise 2.9 percent this year, against its earlier prediction of 2 percent. Inflation was 3.4 percent last year. White House officials predicted that the economy would add about 178,000 jobs a month this year and that the unemployment rate would hover at 5.1 percent, the level it reached last month. The forecast is in line with Wall Street forecasts and takes into account the effect of high oil prices on inflation as well as on growth. The forecast confirms that the economic expansion "is expected to continue at a healthy and sustainable pace," said Harvey Rosen, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. But the forecast could be optimistic. Job creation has been fairly strong, but erratic. The pace has been about 152,000 a month in the last three months. American manufacturers have been cutting their work forces in recent months, and General Motors announced Tuesday that it would eliminate 25,000 blue-collar jobs in the United States by the end of 2008. The White House forecast also assumes that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates very little, with rates on three-month Treasury bills remaining below 4 percent through 2009. By quarter-percent increments, the Fed has raised the federal funds rate on overnight loans between banks to 3 percent, and many analysts predict the rate will reach 4 percent by early next year. Rosen said White House officials based their assumptions about interest rates on levels indicated by the futures markets, not by the administration's predictions of what the Fed will do. The administration is counting on higher tax revenue to reduce the budget deficit, and it will update its budget outlook for this year during the summer. Tax revenue rose by $183 billion, or about 15 percent, in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
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