The proportion of economists who forecast a U.S. recession this year more than doubled in three months, to 45 percent, according to a survey by the National Association for Business Economics.
Of those, a majority expect the downturn to be “relatively muted,” according to the poll of 49 professional forecasters taken Jan. 25 to Feb. 13. Less than 20 percent predicted a downturn in the previous poll completed Nov. 6.
The spillover from the biggest housing slump in a quarter century, turmoil in financial markets and higher energy prices will cause growth to slow to an annual pace of 0.4 percent this quarter and 1 percent in the second quarter, the survey found.
“U.S. economic growth is expected to slow to a crawl in the first half,” Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, the group’s president and chief economist at Ford Motor Co., said in a statement.
The economy will expand 1.8 percent in the year ending in 2008’s fourth quarter, according to the survey. That compares with predictions of 2.6 percent in November.
The survey’s median forecast for fourth-quarter growth compares with 2008 forecasts of 1.7 percent in a Bloomberg News survey taken this month.
The housing slump and credit availability were cited by forecasters as hurting growth this year. More than 60 percent of the economists said the housing recession will have a major negative effect on consumer spending.