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Energy costs remain a concern for businesses
Jan '08
Economic growth appears to have slowed in late 2007, and is likely to remain sluggish through the first half of 2008. Labor market conditions softened notably in December, as job growth slowed and the unemployment rate jumped to 5.0 percent. Core inflation has remained contained, even as a pickup in energy prices boosted headline inflation at the end of the year.

Against this background, the bipartisan tax relief proposal agreed to by the Administration and House leadership has the potential to provide meaningful and well-timed support for economic activity in mid-2008 and into 2009.

Data already in hand suggest that Q4 GDP moderated substantially from growth of nearly 4 and 5 percent in Q2 and Q3, respectively (the first read on Q4 GDP data will be released on Wednesday, January 30). Slower growth of both consumption and investment appear to have offset continued support from exports and government purchases.

The December retail sales report points to a slower pace of consumer spending, and housing market indicators suggest that residential investment posted another substantial decline in the fourth quarter. Shipments of core capital goods through November point to a modest pace of spending on business investment in the fourth quarter. (Data on orders and shipments of durable goods in December to be released on Tuesday, January 29 will provide further evidence on the trajectory of business spending.)

Exports remain a source of strength,with exports of goods and services up by 13 percent over the 12 months ending in November. Despite the solid export performance, recent increases in imports, including a higher volume of oil imports, suggest that the contribution of net exports to real GDP will be smaller than the 1.4 percentage point boost seen on average in the second and third quarters.

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