News Release

January 21, 2020

Consumers Lead Economic Expansion Toward 11th Year with Boost from Housing Construction

Fannie Mae's Economic Theme for 2020: A Resilient Economy Overcomes Risks to Drive Housing

Matthew Classick

202-752-3662

WASHINGTON, DC – In 2020, consumer spending, business fixed investment, and housing are all expected to contribute meaningfully to another year of positive growth in what continues to be the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, according to the latest commentary from the Fannie Mae (FNMA/OTCQB) Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group. The full-year 2020 growth forecast stands at 2.1 percent, while full-year 2019 real GDP growth was upgraded by one-tenth in the January forecast to 2.4 percent due to an unexpectedly strong contribution from net exports.

“While we believe the strength and resilience of the American consumer is the lynchpin of near-trend GDP growth, this year we expect consumer demand to re-establish housing construction as a significant contributor to economic growth – hence our theme for the year: A resilient economy overcomes risks to drive housing,” said Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Strong labor markets, rising wages, and improved household balance sheets offer consumer spending upside potential, including the ability to withstand minor economic disruptions.”

“Simmering geopolitical tensions, trade concerns, potential equity overvaluation, and weakening manufacturing data suggest the risks to our forecast are skewed slightly to the downside, while accelerating global growth and consumer spending power offer upside and greater balance than in previous forecasts,” said Duncan. “We also continue to expect the Fed to maintain its hands-off approach to monetary policy in the new year, with no changes to the target federal funds rate despite persistently low inflation.”

Continued strength in labor markets and household balance sheets support the ESR Group’s expectation that consumer spending will remain both healthy and resilient – and perhaps even surprise to the upside – through 2021. Lackluster manufacturing data in the fourth quarter did lead the Group to pull forward into 2020 its forecast of a prolonged uptick in business fixed investment (BFI), with BFI now forecast to accelerate from 0.3 percent annual growth in 2019 to 2.9 percent in 2020.

The ESR Group also expects housing to carry into 2020 its late-2019 reemergence as a source of economic strength. Single-family construction is expected to report solid growth, with housing starts accelerating due to strong permits data and growing optimism among homebuilders. Low mortgage rates and labor market strength should continue to provide demand support, as made evident in part by the Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index® re-approaching its survey high in recent months.

“Strong consumer demand and low mortgage rates – as well as moderate improvements to supply – have housing well-positioned for a come-back year in 2020,” Duncan continued. “While we expect housing to regain its place as an economic growth driver after a period of relative sluggishness, we recognize that the problems of affordability and inventory are likely to persist for the forecast horizon. Homebuilders have begun to accelerate the pace of single-family construction, including in the much-needed affordable space, but supply constraints still exist. In many areas, that demand-supply imbalance continues to contribute to entry-level home prices outpacing wage gains, exacerbating the affordability challenge.”

Visit the Economic & Strategic Research site at fanniemae.com to read the full January 2020 Economic Outlook, including the Economic Developments Commentary, Economic Forecast, Housing Forecast, and Multifamily Market Commentary. To receive e-mail updates with other housing market research from Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group, please click here.

Opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts, and other views of Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) Group included in these materials should not be construed as indicating Fannie Mae's business prospects or expected results, are based on a number of assumptions, and are subject to change without notice. How this information affects Fannie Mae will depend on many factors. Although the ESR Group bases its opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts, and other views on information it considers reliable, it does not guarantee that the information provided in these materials is accurate, current, or suitable for any particular purpose. Changes in the assumptions or the information underlying these views could produce materially different results. The analyses, opinions, estimates, forecasts, and other views published by the ESR Group represent the views of that group as of the date indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of Fannie Mae or its management.

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