Ex-Philip Morris economist sees US economy shrinking 1.5% in 2017

Look down to the very bottom on the Bloomberg list of estimates for US economic growth next year and you will find John Dunham. The Brooklyn-based economist stands alone in a survey that includes 89 of his peers in projecting a fall in American output next year.
Most of the big Wall Street banks sing in unison in their forecast for 2017: they expect another year of modest economic growth, roughly in the range of 2 per cent. Business investment may rebound, the energy sector is looking stronger, and the fiscal policies proposed by President-elect Donald Trump could provide a modest additional boon.
But Mr Dunham, president of John Dunham & Associates and previously a senior economist at the tobacco giant Philip Morris, has a drearier outlook. He forecasts a fall of 1.5 per cent next year thanks to a three-quarter recession that begins in the second quarter.
Mr Dunham cautioned that it is famously difficult to call exactly when a recession will begin, but that there are indications that the fourth-longest US expansion since the mid-19th Century is showing signs of peaking.
“We are well past the point where it should have topped out,” he said.
The economist, who primarily focuses on crafting micro-economic analyses for lobbying groups, pointed to restaurant sales as a “big canary in a coal mine”.
Indeed, same-store sales across the US restaurant industry were down by 1.3 per cent in November, representing the ninth-straight decline and the worst reading since July, according to a survey by research group TDn2K.
Other metrics are flashing warnings signs, too, said Mr Dunham. He points, for instance, to the fall in the US jobless rate in November to 4.6 per cent as suggesting there is not much room for additional labour market gains, while productivity growth has continually disappointed.
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