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2013 economic view is brighter

Modest growth forecast with housing in lead

WASHINGTON — Business economists believe the country will see modest growth in 2013 with strength coming from a further rebound in housing which will help offset weakness in business investment.

In its latest survey of top forecasters, the National Association for Business Economics says it is looking for the economy to grow in 2013 by 2.1 percent after 2.2 percent growth in 2012. That would continue the same tepid growth the country has seen since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009.

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Growth at that pace is not strong enough to make a significant improvement in unemployment. The NABE economists believe unemployment will average 7.7 percent for all of next year, right at the level it reached in November.

The 48 NABE economists on the survey panel had essentially the same outlook as their previous forecast in October. While they have modest expectations for 2013, they do see growth slowly improving as the year progresses.

The economists forecast growth in the gross domestic product at 1.6 percent in the current October-December quarter, down from 2.7 percent growth in the July-September period. Part of that slowdown, the economists believe, will reflect the disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy, which slammed into the Northeast on Oct. 29.

About half of the economists surveyed believe Sandy will cut growth by 0.2 to 0.5 percentage point in the current quarter and about one-third of the survey panel believe rebuilding from the storm will increase growth by a similar 0.2 to 0.5 percentage point range in the first three months of next year.

The NABE panel is looking for GDP growth at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the first quarter followed by rates of 2.4 percent in the April-June quarter, 2.6 percent in the third quarter, and 3 percent in the fourth quarter next year.

Nayantara Hensel, head of the NABE panel and a business professor at the National Defense University in Washington, said part of the optimism that growth will be improving is a belief that the government will come to a resolution of the fiscal cliff, the sharp increases in taxes and spending cuts that will hit in January if Congress and the Obama administration do not reach a budget deal.

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