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Significant Risk of New Recession: Goldman's Hatzius

Jan Hatzius, chief US economist for Goldman Sachs
CNBC
Jan Hatzius, chief US economist for Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs, in a bearish forecast, expects 2 percent growth in the U.S. for the next few quarters and a "significant risk, one in three, that we will go back into recession," senior economist Jan Hatzius told CNBC Friday.

"We have seen enough over the last two months to come to the conclusion that in the first half the underlying pace of growth was pretty disappointing, even if you adjust for [the disruptions in] Japan and adjust for fiscal policy," he said.

The 2 percent figure is "slightly below the economy’s potential" growth of 2.5 percent, he said, because Goldman sees the U.S. unemployment rate going "sideways to slightly higher" despite the decline to 9.1 percent reported Friday.

"We also think the Federal Reserve is going to respond with at least some small steps in the direction of additional stimulus, i.e., provide more guidance about the size of the balance sheet at next week’s meeting" of the Federal Open Market Committee , Hatzius said.

The recession risk is "not our expectation but it’s certainly possible," he added, citing the financial problems in Europe.

"We don’t expect the euro zone as a whole to go into recession," he said. But if the euro zone goes into recession, "clearly there would be significant spillover effect for the U.S."

Uncertainties closer to home include "the risk of sharper fiscal restraint than what we’re building into our baseline numbers."

For instance, he is not sure the payroll tax, expiring this year, will be extended. "We expect it to be extended but we're not sure. We've seen some deterioration in the labor market, which in the past has fed on itself and that undermines the consumer in particular."

He noted that unemployment insurance is already expiring for a lot of people because more are hitting the maximum 99 weeks.

Hatzius offered the slight possibility things will improve in the third quarter if the increase in jobs seen Friday continues.

However, for the most part "there’s not much momentum on the demand side," he said. "The economy is still healing from the bursting of the housing and credit bubble. Monetary policy can do a little more. Fiscal policy is going in the other direction. When you add it all up there's not a lot of forward momentum."

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