The Economic Outlook – WSJ December Survey

No acceleration in growth rates, and short term growth prospects dim, but GDP level higher relative to October — but not November — survey.

Figure 1: GDP as reported in 2020Q3 2nd release (black), WSJ April survey (tan), June survey (green), August survey (red), October survey (pink), December survey (blue), all in billions Ch.2012$, SAAR, all on log scale. Source: BEA, various vintages, WSJ survey, various vintages, author’s calculations.

Note that while the implied projected level of GDP is higher in the December survey relative to October, this is not because growth prospects have brightened going forward. Rather, it’s because Q3 growth outperformed the 28.5% growth (SAAR) in the mean October survey (results discussed in this post).

Figure 2 shows the mean GDP forecast, and the fastest forecasted growth (7.8%, from James Smith, yet again — I still want whatever pharmaceutical that guy takes!) and the slowest (1.9% from A.C. Cutts ) over the next four quarters (2020Q4-2021Q3).

Figure 2: GDP as reported in 2020Q3 2nd release (black), James Smith/Economic Forecaster LLC (red), Amy Crew Cutts/A.C. Cutts & assoc.  (green), all in billions Ch.2012$, SAAR, on log scale. Source: BEA, 2020Q3 nrd release, December WSJ survey, and author’s calculations.

Smith predicts a “V” recovery. Seven out of 62 individuals forecasts a negative period of growth in the next two quarters (Amy Crew Cutts has two negative quarters). 57% of the forecasts incorporate a new fiscal package, likely in the new year.

The survey was taken between December 4-8.

Last month, I thought that with the fast-deteriorating Covid-19 situation (cases, hospitalizations, deaths all rising), Trump administration complete abdication of a public health response, and administration obstruction of a transition to the new administration, most of these forecasters were underestimating the likelihood of zero growth in 2020Q4 and into 2021Q1. Forecasters have marked  down of prospects, particularly in 2021Q1.

Additional discussion of the survey results in the WSJ article.





49 thoughts on “The Economic Outlook – WSJ December Survey

  1. Moses Herzog

    Have I used up all my groan inducing bad jokes related to hair on ACC’s name yet….. ?? Pity. I knew grasping at all the cheap jokes early would leave me bored later. Actually I tend to like pessimists, so Ms. Cutts, if you’re out there reading, you’re AOK with me.

  2. Moses Herzog

    You know one thing I just found out wandering online, Amy Crew Cutts has prior connections to John Hopkins U. And I wonder how much that colors (in a good way) her economic forecasts in the current Covid-19 context?? I would tend to guess “Yes, it does”.

    1. Moses Herzog

      Michelle Malkin has been trashing it all day since this morning, even doing a long YT stream. Strongly encouraging parents not to sign the consent form for the vaccine. How do I know this?? OK, I hate the woman’s politics, she is kinda a monster in fact, but I do enjoy perving out to her face. (No, I did not watch the entire stream, only about 15 minutes)

        1. Moses Herzog

          @ pgl
          I’m not certain, her main complaint in the YT stream was vaccine efficacy. I know she has a book out on immigration but I have not read it. It was mainly a guilty pleasure I was sharing, like sometimes I listen to Alex Jones for a few minutes. The good news for you is next time you have an argument with no underlying logic–you can throw in that what I said is “gibberish” and “your hero is Alex Jones” and no one will deny you are the reigning rhetorical champion of this blog.

          What I would like to know is if Malkin has secretly vaccinated her own children, even though she advises people not to do that. I suspect she has vaccinated them, but since health records are hard to “unlock” or she may find a way to have a nurse inject the vaccine “off the record”, we will never know.

  3. Moses Herzog

    Wishing a Happy Hanukkah to all of Menzie’s Jewish readers!!!! We know you are out there!!!!

    I like listening to Mandy Patinkin sing Hebrew and English versed songs. I don’t know if most Jewish people would laugh at that or not.

    A lot of great things have come to America and happened in America because of the brilliance and compassion of the Jewish People, and believe it or not, America is grateful and indebted to them for their capacity for empathy and kindness.

    1. dilbert dogbert

      Too bad their brothers and sisters don’t to seem to have empathy and kindness to their Christian and Muslim citizens.

      1. Moses Herzog

        @ dilbert dogbert
        I assume you’re referencing Israel?? I disagree, They are much more tolerant than people imagine, especially in Tel Aviv. There are Arab and Muslim members of Knesset. I don’t know what the exact number is for either institution, but Israel may even have more Arabs and Muslims in Knesset than we have in all of the U.S. Congress. I’ve taken swipes at the Israel government before, but you can’t make blanket statements like that.

        If you look at what Jews went through in Europe and Russia, even pre-World War 2, Jewish people have always gotten the worst of it (the receiving end of hate). So one could hardly blame them for not singing Christmas jingles etc when people professing to be Christians slaughtered them over centuries.

  4. Moses Herzog

    Look at the 3rd visual graphic down. donald “the dealmaker” does it again:

    Honest to God, at this point I feel like we should celebrate because we’re ahead of India.

    And while you’re looking at what nation made it to the top of that graphic, remind yourself of all the vile and grotesque things donald trump said about Canada, possibly the most reliable ally America has ever had. One would almost get the wild idea that Justin Trudeau cares more about his citizens than talk out of his A$$ on Twitter at 2:00am in the morning. Go figure……..

    1. pgl

      That chart tells me that AstraZeneca is kicking butt relative to everyone else. Let’s hope this passes phase 3 trials.

  5. Moses Herzog

    If you bother to read this article, warning, it is a pretty long read, keep in mind, it is the type of stuff pgl labels as “gibberish” and “garbage”. And pgl wants you to know, in this protracted and seemingly never-ending article on Joe Biden’s efforts to slash Social Security to those most in need, none of Biden’s efforts to waterblast hose and screw the little guy are important, because “they were never enacted”.

    Let me tell you something else folks, due to pgl’s great discussion skills and common sense “logic”, I have decided that the Cuban Missile Crisis means nothing, because it was never “enacted”. And really I don’t know why we even talk about it, because it’s “gibberish” and “Garbage”. pgl probably thinks I should call up the DNC and Hillary spokesman Philippe Reines just to be certain the Cuban Missile Crisis “is gibberish” and “garbage” but I’ve decided not to because of pgl’s indestructible logic.

    1. pgl

      I guess on your dates with JohnH, he took over your mind. Yea I read this noting this line:

      ‘The most prominent vehicle for those negotiations was known as the Bowles-Simpson Commission, a bipartisan panel charged with making recommendations to Congress on how to reduce the federal debt.’

      Get out the Google and see what I have written on this BS commission. It was BS and I said so. I have also noted many times that the case for cutting Soc. Sec. benefits was based on bad finance. But do troll on as it gets your new BFF hot.

      1. Moses Herzog

        Great logic always. None of which refutes the facts on Biden trying over multiple years to cut Social Security. One of which was to be partly paid for with a 15cent gas tax. Way to look out for lower income families. Let’s do the math and see what percent of low-income families’ total expenditures goes to a gas tax vs people like your gym buddy de Blasio (not that anyone other than you knows what de Blasio looks like, I don’t want to take away your big accomplishments in life).

        You can provide the link to your own “gibberish”. Do you really think I’m hunting down what YOU wrote after all the unadulterated cr*p comments you’ve put here?? I only read “FemaleNoSpeaks” blog when bored and in need of absurdist humor. Did you want to share another Hollywood star from the ’60s other than Sophia Loren that you like to prove your “feminist creds”??? Baaaaahahahahahaha!!!!!!

  6. Moses Herzog

    Here’s another interesting one. How does it help a situation, to give a person who is not qualified or have the proper background for an important job, that same job, only to check a box?? If we thought it was wrong and a dumb move with Ben Carson (which it undoubtedly was) and then say “It’s ok” or “nothing we need talk about” when a “Democrat” president pulls the same crappy stunt??

    What you’re going to have is a very important agency, lost in the woods with no direction, as they have been over multiple years because you had to cash in an “IOU” to someone who is not qualified and will not be able to execute the duties of the job. And who do they think will suffer while Marcia Fudge has her finger up her nose the same as Ben Carson, having no idea what she is doing?? [ HINT: NOT white people in the suburbs ]

    I don’t know who has Biden’s ear on these appointments (Ron Klain?? O’Malley Dillon??), but it does nothing for the minority community to appoint people who will do nothing but make fools of themselves for the next 4 years.

      1. Moses Herzog

        I’m afraid your usual Swahili is making no sense, as per usual, and I have no idea why you throw back the same link I just provided.

        I doubt anyone else follows what the hell you’re trying to say.

    1. Moses Herzog

      @ pgl
      You big sexist. This is disgusting how much you seemingly hate women just to hate on them. Feinstein is very clever and she is the only one to magically know how to “masterfully” run the Senate by installing all her age 65+ cronies in leadership spots and getting enemies to scooch away over to HUD (wait, am I getting two “clever” people mixed up in my head here??). Also funding any corporate “democrats” facing progressive candidates so as to make the Democrat party more Republican-lite. Masterful and clever leadership!!! Does it mention which brand premium ice cream Feinstein likes perchance?? See if you can get Feinstein to mention the premium ice cream she likes on national TV at the low point of the next economic downturn, I know some morons on a blog who think that’s “clever” politics.

    2. Barkley Rosser

      My inside sources in DC who know Congress well have been telling me for some time that this is the member of Congress, and especially the Senate, for whom that s word that Moses has liked to throw at various other people, although not somehow at Feinstein to my knowledge, really does apply. She needs to step aside, the sooner the better. At least she is stepping aside from being the senior Dem on the JSen. udiciary comm.

      1. Moses Herzog

        Make a deal, quit being a D-head 24/7 and I’ll quit using the s-word (not $hit, because I still love that word). “Inside sources”~~~do you really expect anyone to buy that crap?? Don’t say it when it doesn’t pass the sniff test. And no one is impressed by something someone told you that is obvious by reading current news anyway. But there’s levels of dementia. Pelosi has it. IN actuality my biggest problem with Pelosi isn’t that. It’s pretending she cares about the little guy—that engenders greater anger from disenfranchised than guys like McConnell who makes no bones about what he is—and deservedly so–which is how you get black people wearing a MAGA hat etc that logically have no business doing so.

        1. Barkley Rosser


          My source, who does know everybody in Congress, told me this about Feinstein well be for her messups on Judiciary got public attention. This source also says that Pelosi is the smartest and most capable person in Congress, all of it. The ice cream incident, which you keep going on and on about, was a minor one day blunder.

    3. JohnH

      Maybe CA Dems will select Jerry Brown…the DSCC needs another octogenarian to help fill out the leadership…

      1. Moses Herzog

        I always liked Jerry. He was the first presidential vote I ever made, so that may have biased my views about him somehow.

        He was openly attacking donald trump at the beginning of his term. Wasn’t hearing too many other Governors doing that before Covid-19.

        1. noneconomist

          One of Gov. Brown’s shining moments came a few years ago after Chris Christie called him “an old retread'” Brown was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer at the time,but that didn’t stop him from challenging CC to a three mile run and to see who could do the most pull ups and sit ups.
          Score one for the Old Retread.

      2. noneconomist

        Johnny One Note now a California political expert .
        In the 2018 election Feinstein’s opponent was progressive Democrat Kevin de Leon. You would have expected Kevin (who then could not carry DF’s briefcase) to do well in California’s most liberal/progressive counties. Alas, he didn’t. He was -17 in Alameda, -31 in Marin, -29 in San Francisco, -19 in Santa Clara -26 in San Mateo,-15 in Los Angeles.Unlike you California voters know a lightweight when they see one.(One of KdL’s ideas was to work to shut down the Senate if elected)
        He was, however, among those brain dead Democrats who, three years ago, voted to improve California’s minimum wage to $15/hr. in 2022.I know you think that pales in comparison to Florida, which trails California this year by only $4.40/hr, but you have to something to harp on that will leave little dobt about your ignorance.
        BTW, there are plenty of good candidates should DF choose to step down. One of my personal favorites is State Controller rBetty Yee. i also like State Treasurer Fiona Ma as well as some excellent members of the house (Barbara Lee, Karen Bass, Adam Schiff and others).
        Apparently, you excel at opening your mouth and putting your foot in it and enjoy blithely doing so. Carry on.

  7. ltr

    December 10, 2020



    Cases   ( 16,039,393)
    Deaths   ( 299,692)


    Cases   ( 9,796,992)
    Deaths   ( 142,222)


    Cases   ( 2,337,966)
    Deaths   ( 56,940)


    Cases   ( 1,787,783)
    Deaths   ( 63,082)


    Cases   ( 1,270,432)
    Deaths   ( 21,233)


    Cases   ( 1,205,229)
    Deaths   ( 111,655)


    Cases   ( 442,069)
    Deaths   ( 13,109)


    Cases   ( 86,673)
    Deaths   ( 4,634)

  8. ltr

    December 10, 2020

    Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

    UK   ( 927)
    US   ( 903)
    France   ( 867)
    Mexico   ( 856)

    Canada   ( 346)
    Germany   ( 253)
    India   ( 103)
    China   ( 3)

    Notice the ratios of deaths to coronavirus cases are 9.3%, 3.5% and 2.4% for Mexico, the United Kingdom and France respectively.

  9. ltr

    December 11, 2020

    Chinese mainland reports 15 new COVID-19 cases

    The Chinese mainland recorded 15 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including 6 locally transmitted cases and 9 from overseas, the National Health Commission announced on Friday.

    Seven new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases were recorded, while 200 asymptomatic patients remain under medical observation. No COVID-19 deaths were reported on Thursday, while 8 patients were discharged from hospitals.

    The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 86,688, with 4,634 deaths as of Thursday.

    Chinese mainland new imported cases

    Chinese mainland new asymptomatic cases

    [ There has been no coronavirus death on the Chinese mainland since the beginning of May.  Since the beginning of June there have been 7 limited community clusters of infections, each of which was an immediate focus of mass testing, contact tracing and quarantine, with each outbreak having been contained.  Symptomatic and asymptomatic cases are all contact traced and quarantined.

    Imported coronavirus cases are caught at entry points with required testing and immediate quarantine.  Cold-chain imported food products are all checked and tracked through distribution.  The flow of imported cases to China is low, but has been persistent.

    There are now 292 active coronavirus cases in all on the Chinese mainland, 5 of which cases are classed as serious or critical. ]

  10. ltr

    December 10, 2020

    Big Pharma Strikes Back
    By Dean Baker

    On Monday, Achal Prabhala, Arjun Jayadev, and I had a column * in the New York Times arguing in support of a resolution put forward before the World Health Organization by India and South Africa, which would suspend intellectual property rights related to vaccines and treatments related to the pandemic. The main point is that these rights are slowing the diffusion of life-saving medicines in a crisis. Furthermore, since much or all the cost of developing these vaccines and treatments were picked up by various governments, the drug companies would still be earning back their investment, plus a healthy profit, even with this suspension.

    Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry is not letting this proposal go unchallenged in public debate. Thomas Cueni, the director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, had a column ** in the New York Times on Thursday pushing the industry’s line. Cueni argues that it would be unfair to the industry to suspend its patent rights in the pandemic. He also argues that it wouldn’t help distribution in any case because of supply constraints and that it would be harmful in the long-run since companies would not invest in developing new drugs if they could not count on their patent rights being respected….



    1. macroduck

      Shorter Cueni: “I can make up a reason that a life-saving idea might not work, so don’t bother trying. Plus, the massively profitable drug industry, which already under-invests in research, would ignore the potential for future profits in response to a one-time suspension of intellectual property rules, contrary to its own interest.”

      The drug industry needs a new shill.

  11. Willie

    I don’t have high hopes for the economy right now. The vaccine news is good news. But, the country won’t be vaccinated enough to make a difference for about six months, maybe more. Any federal relief bill has to get past Moscow Mitch, which probably won’t happen without the poison pills he wants to stuff in there. So, no relief bill. It’s going to be a long, dark winter.

    1. pgl

      If everyone starting wearing masks and taking appropriate protocols, we could turn this in a positive direction quite quickly. Of course we are now 9 months into this and a lot of Americans are still acting incredibly stupid. It does not help that Trump is still lying to these morons and that these morons still have not figured out that he is lying.

  12. ltr

    December 10, 2020



    Cases   ( 274,781)
    Deaths   ( 11,209)

    Deaths per million   ( 1,626)

  13. ltr

    December 10, 2020


    New York

    Cases   ( 782,680)
    Deaths   ( 35,326)

    Deaths per million   ( 1,816)

  14. macroduck

    Menzie, I know you have a couple of other things to do right now, but I want you to put them aside and cater to my curiosity instead.

    Are you aware of any work on the post-rebound outlook? Demographics, hysteresis, investment patterns, financial impairment, trade impact…? The monthly forecast changes are useful, but not providing much new grist for the mill. Same slope each month, with the intercept adjusted to reflect new date. The medium term involves a greater element of mystery and I love a good Agatha Christie.

    1. Moses Herzog

      @ macroduck
      “Menzie, I know you have a couple of other things to do right now, but I want you to put them aside and cater to my curiosity instead.”

      macroduck, how much are you asking for, for ghost writing services online?? Your comments are always better than mine and I’m running out of smart-a$$ things and cheap jokes to say. (that’s some self-deprecating, yet seemingly accurate humor there)

      After all, you’ve already been slanderously accused of being me (although my deepest condolences to you, the 2nd best compliment I have ever received on this blog next to being given the honor of being tagged Menzie’s “alter-ego” once). What have you got to lose at this point??

  15. ltr

    Paul Krugman @paulkrugman

    The GOP spent most of 2020 rejecting science in the face of a deadly pandemic; now it’s rejecting democracy in the face of a clear election loss. How did we get to this point? One step at a time, of course. But I’d argue that the wrong turn began under Reagan 1/

    9:41 AM · Dec 11, 2020

    Republicans have, of course, done their best to beatify Reagan — mainly on the basis of an economic recovery that he didn’t cause and the collapse of Communism, which he also didn’t cause. What actually happened on his watch? 2/

    Well, for one thing it was the beginning of the great mortality divergence. America used to have about the same life expectancy as other rich countries; since 1980, however, we’ve fallen far behind 3/


    One contributing factor was a huge rise in income inequality, partly attributable to Reagan’s policies, including union-bashing. 4/


    Poverty, properly measured, was higher in 1989 than a decade earlier, especially for children and working-age adults 5/

    Center on Poverty and Social Policy

    People also forget how anti-science Reagan was; he denounced evolution as “just a theory” and wanted creationism taught in schools 6/

    [ ]

    And while the practice of equating patriotism with political support for the current president (as long as he’s a Republican) didn’t start with Reagan — Nixon did it too — it got much more intense, paving the way for the Trump cult of personality 7/

    As Adam Smith said, there is a great deal of ruin in a nation. America had and still has many strengths as a society. But given time and persistence, a malign political movement can undo those strengths. I’m very frightened about the future 8/

  16. ltr

    December 10, 2020

    Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

    Belgium   ( 1,516)
    Italy   ( 1,036)
    Spain   ( 1,012)
    UK   ( 927)

    US   ( 903)
    France   ( 871)
    Mexico   ( 862)
    Sweden   ( 726)

    Switzerland   ( 671)
    Luxembourg   ( 609)
    Netherlands   ( 577)
    Portugal   ( 518)

    Austria   ( 461)
    Ireland   ( 427)
    Canada   ( 346)
    Greece   ( 324)

    Germany   ( 253)
    Denmark   ( 158)
    India   ( 103)
    Finland   ( 80)

    Norway   ( 70)
    Australia   ( 35)
    Japan   ( 20)
    Korea   ( 11)

    China   ( 3)

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