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'Painfully' Slow US Growth in 2012: Evercore's Altman

It will be "a very complex year across the board" in 2012, with a "slow, painfully, but upward, U.S. economy, gradually improving labor markets, and 2 percent to 2.5 percent gross domestic productgrowth, predicted Evercore Partners Chairman Roger Altman.

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He told CNBC slow that economic growth in the U.S. will be balanced by the "enormous risk and volatility posed by Europe, where the watchword is uncertainty." he also noted there are developing uncertainties about China and its economy.

Turning to politics, Altman, a former deputy Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, said the 2012 U.S. presidential election will be "really close and quite fascinating."

With the Democrats' "center of gravity" heading left and the Republicans' moving right, "we're in a down cycle in terms of gridlock" in Congress. He stressed, however, "eventually that lifts."

Altman noted that there have been "many instances in the modern era where each part controls part of Washington and yet major reform occurred." He pointed to the passage of the North American Free Trade Act and welfare reform in the 1990s under Clinton with a Republican majority in Congress.

Altman said the Justice Department made the "wrong move" in blocking the merger of AT&T and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile, "but maybe I'm too close to it." Evercore Partners advised AT&T.

He said the Obama Justice Department has been "toughening up" over the last nine months and didn't take into consideration the changing dynamics of the wireless market where new participants such as Google and Apple are challenging the status quo.

"The wireless market is much more dynamic that a static approach [by the Justice Department] would suggest," he said.