United States: Congress approves fiscal package, lifting forecasts for 2011
December 17, 2010
On 16 December, Congress approved a USD 858 billion tax bill that extends all Bush-era tax cuts for two more years, cuts payroll taxes for one year and prolongs long-term unemployment insurance for 13 months. The package also includes the maintenance of the ceiling for taxes on capital gains and dividends at 15% (contrasting the Democrats' intention to raise it to 20%), among other measures. Market analysts reacted positively to the news and quickly revised their forecasts for the 2011-12 period. The approval of the new fiscal package is likely to boost economic activity in the next two years, with Consensus Forecast panellists raising their 2011 GDP growth forecasts by 0.4 percentage points from last month to 2.8%. For 2012, the panel sees growth accelerating to 3.1%. However, the costs of further supporting the recovery will impose a larger burden on the Obama administration. The U.S. budget deficit is expected to narrow from 10.0% of GDP in 2009 to only 8.5% of GDP in 2011, against last month's Consensus Forecast of 8.1%. That said, the additional threat on the sustainability of the country's public debt is likely to prompt investors to demand higher yields to hold public debt, with the Consensus Forecast for 2011 year-end yields on 10-year Treasury bonds rising from 3.35% expected last month to 3.53% this month.