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Economists keep rosy view for 3 pct growth in 2014

Business forecasters maintained their rosy view of the U.S. economy in 2014, predicting 3 percent growth by the second quarter of next year, low inflation and improving employment.

The top economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics between Aug. 8 and Aug. 20 also said there’s an 80 percent likelihood that the pickup in growth will prompt the Federal Reserve to trim its monthly $85 billion purchases of mortgage bonds and Treasury bills next year.

The NABE’s 43 respondents said in a report released Monday that there’s a 45 percent chance the Fed will begin its so-called “tapering” as early as this year.

But economists trimmed their expectations for the second half of 2013 since the last survey, in May.

The economists predicted that real gross domestic product would grow at a 2.3 percent annualized rate in the third quarter through September, down from 2.5 percent seen earlier; and 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 2.8 percent seen earlier. They were less optimistic about consumer spending, industrial production and private investment in nonresidential structures, equipment and software.

The economists’ slightly more pessimistic views were likely affected by the government initially reporting in July that second-quarter GDP grew 1.7 percent. On Aug. 29, the Commerce Department revised the figure sharply higher for the April-June quarter, to 2.5 percent.

“It’s fair to assume that they reduced their outlook for GDP because they had seen weaker business investment across the board,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America and an NABE analyst who helped compile the report. “The big takeaway is that the forecast now, like in May, is for gradually improving conditions, getting up to … growth of 3 percent in 2014 and holding there.” The last time the economy grew more than 3 percent over one year, on average, was in 2005.

NABE economists predicted that the consumer price index will grow just 1.3 percent in 2013 and 1.7 percent in 2014 when excluding volatile food and energy prices. The unemployment rate is seen falling to 7 percent next year from 7.5 percent this year, with the economy adding on average 199,000 non-farm jobs a month next year.

The dollar is seen holding steady against the European currency at $1.30 per euro next year, compared to an expected $1.31 in 2013.