More Growth Worries: Atlanta Fed Lowers First Quarter GDP Growth Forecast to 0%

04/02/2015 5:35 pm EST

Focus: MARKETS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Thursday’s Atlanta Fed projection essentially repeated Wednesday’s bad news, and MoneyShow’s Jim Jubak thinks worries about first quarter growth and earnings are now intense enough so that bad news on GDP growth will be treated as bad news by the financial markets.

Way too much news today—especially before a three day weekend (the financial markets are closed tomorrow for Good Friday)—with the March job numbers set to be released at 8:30 AM New York time.

But the most important news for the day—most important as in most likely to move stock and bond prices for more than a day—comes out of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model forecasts seasonally adjusted annual GDP growth on a daily basis. Yesterday, the GDPNow model dropped to show 0% growth year over year for the quarter that ended on March 31. To show that April 1 forecast was no joke, today’s April 2 projection essentially repeated yesterday’s bad news with a forecast of an annual 0.1% growth in the quarter.

This is a huge drop very quickly. The GDPNow forecast for first quarter GDP was 2.3% back on February 13.

The Atlanta Fed’s forecast is considerably more pessimistic than the forecasts from economists tracked by Blue Chip Economic Indicators and Blue Chip Financial Forecasts. The consensus in those surveys puts growth between 2.5% and 1% growth for the quarter. Back in January, the Blue Chip consensus was for 3% growth in the quarter.

If the Atlanta Fed forecast is correct, investors can expect market volatility since the Fed’s forecast is significantly below even the bottom ten forecasts (at 1%) in the Blue Chip consensus. Of course, if the Atlanta Fed is right, the market will probably decide that even September 2015 is too soon for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates. In another context that might be seen as good news, delays in raising interest rates usually are interpreted that way by financial markets, but I suspect that worries about first quarter growth and earnings are now intense enough so that bad news on GDP growth will be treated as bad news by the financial markets.

The actual first quarter GDP numbers won’t be reported until April 29. But—as I noted on March 27—I think this is time to raise a little cash. I’ll begin doing that on Monday.

Related Articles on MARKETS