US growth is now probably ‘as good as it gets,’ Goldman’s chief economist says

Key Points
  • Goldman's chief economist says the US GDP growth rate has probably peaked.
  • The Federal Reserve is widely tipped to raise its federal funds rate next week.
  • Goldman Sachs tips a rate hike every three months for the next seven quarters.
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The current rate of growth in the United States is likely to slow from this point, according to the top economist at Goldman Sachs.

The investment bank's second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) tracking model for the U.S. has risen to 3.7 percent, pushed higher by input from recent jobs and manufacturing data that have blown past expectations. The May employment report revealed a first-print 223,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls and a drop in the unemployment rate to a near five-decade low of 3.75 percent.

Jan Hatzius, Goldman's chief economist, said in a research note published Monday that the tailwind effect of fiscal stimulus and benign monetary conditions had likely pushed the growth rate as fast as possible for now.

"The current pace is probably as good as it gets because we expect the impulse from financial conditions to gradually turn more negative," Hatzius said.

Speaking to CNBC's "Street Signs" on Thursday, Hatzius said U.S. growth would remain, however, well above the long-term trend as tax changes from the Donald Trump administration continued to benefit both businesses and consumers.

In relation to the labor market, Hatzius said the U.S. had probably "stretched a little bit beyond full employment" when considered on a sustainable level.

"We are still creating a lot more jobs than the long-term trend which we would put at 100,000 (each month), so when you are adding 200,000, that means the unemployment rate is set to move into overheating territory," Hatzius added.

Fed meeting

Next week's Federal Reserve meeting could prove pivotal as the U.S. central bank continues its path towards "normalization." The Federal Reserve is widely tipped to raise its federal funds rate to a point that means for the first time in almost a decade the cost of borrowing dollars will no longer be essentially free.

The Fed's own forecast estimates it will set 3.25 to 3.5 percent for the funds rate at the end of 2020.

Goldman believes the target could be reached by the end of 2019, reflecting a rate hike every three months for the next seven quarters. Hatzius admitted it's an opinion not reflected in current bond markets.

"Our own forecast is that they get to that level about a year earlier and both of these forecasts are meaningfully above market pricing," he said.