Economy

War fallout: U.S. economy to slow, Europe risks recession and Russia to suffer double-digit decline

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The economic impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

In a first pass at gauging the economic impact from the Ukraine invasion, forecasters say the U.S. will grow more slowly with higher inflation, Europe's economy will flirt near recession and Russia will plunge into a deep, double-digit decline.

The CNBC Rapid Update, the average of 14 forecasts for the U.S. economy, sees GDP rising by 3.2% this year, a modest 0.3% markdown from the February forecast, but still above-trend growth as the US continues to bounce back from the Omicron slowdown. Inflation for personal consumption expenditures, the Fed's preferred indicator, is seen rising by 4.3% this year, 0.7 percentage points higher than the prior survey in February.

CNBC Rapid Update

Forecasters cautioned, however, that much remains unknown about how the U.S. economy will respond to an oil shock that has seen crude prices surge quickly above $126 a barrel and the national average gasoline price over $4 per gallon. Most see risks to their forecasts skewed toward higher inflation and lower growth.

A complete removal of Russian oil from global supply could mean a far more grim outcome, economists said.

"…The consequences of a complete shut-off of Russia's 4.3 (million barrels per day) of oil exports to the US and Europe would be dramatic,'' JPMorgan wrote over the weekend. "To the extent that this disengagement gathers steam, the size and length of the disruption — and thus the shock to global growth— will build."

The CNBC Rapid Update shows U.S. growth accelerating to 3.5% in the second quarter from 1.9% in the first. But that second quarter estimate is down 0.8 percentage points from the prior survey. So the economy is still seen bouncing back from the omicron wave, but not as strongly as inflation takes a bigger bite.

Inflation estimates are 1.7 percentage points higher for this quarter and 1.6 percentage points for next. Inflation is expected to decline from 4.3% this year to 2.4% by year-end.

CNBC Rapid Update

Overall, U.S. economic growth is seen enduring.

"Energy prices are spiking, and they may remain higher persistently, but I expect much of the run-up seen in recent days to recede within a few months, which means mainly a short-term impact on growth and inflation," said economist Stephen Stanley, with Amherst Pierpont. "Consumers have massive liquidity, income growth, and wealth to draw on."

One factor that makes this price shock different from others is how much oil the U.S. produces. With U.S. production and demand in rough balance, money is transferred from consumers to producers inside the economy, rather than from the U.S. to foreigners. That will hit individual American families and certain regions of the country harder, but boost the profits of U.S. energy companies.

Oil companies, in turn, will likely boost growth by using profits to increase drilling.

Still, some are pessimistic that the drag from higher prices will lead to a bigger drag on U.S. growth. "The US is on the cusp of a recessionary inflation, with energy and now food prices potentially soaring significantly further,'' said Joseph Lavorgna of Natixis.

Europe to be hit harder

Most agree that effect will be worse in Europe.

Barclays marked down its growth forecast for Europe this year to 3.5% from 4.1% last month.

"Soaring commodity prices and risk aversion in financial markets are the main contagion channels, implying a global stagflationary shock, with Europe being the most exposed region" the investment bank said.

JPMorgan took off nearly a full percentage from European growth this year, and now forecasts GDP will increase by 3.2%. But the second quarter has been filled in at zero.

Russia is forecast to get hit hardest of all. JPMorgan forecasts a 12.5% decline in GDP as the country's economy buckles under the weight of unprecedented sanctions that have frozen its $630 billion in foreign exchange reserves and cut its economy off from the rest of the world.

The Institute for International Finance sees a 15% contraction, double the decline from global financial crisis. "We see risks as tilted to the downside. Russia will never be the same again" wrote IIF's Chief Economist Robin Brooks.