The fall in oil prices has led to a dramatic cut in energy-related capital expenditures, which fell by no less than one-third in the first quarter of 2016, according to Brian Coulton, chief economist at Fitch.
That's one of the reasons Fitch lowered its U.S. GDP forecast to just 1.8% for 2016, which would be the first year of sub-2% growth since 2013. Another factor has been exports, which are in decline due to the strength of the U.S. dollar.
Also weighing on exports is the weakness in emerging markets and oil-producing countries, as a result of the decline in oil prices.
So will the bounce back in oil prices boost energy companies' investing, thereby increasing GDP? It's unlikely that companies would change their investment plans thanks to a short-term change in price, Coulton said.
However, if there was a sustainable recovery, that could change their outlook. Still, he doesn't see that as playing a factor, at least this year. "We still think energy-related capex is going to be very weak," he reasoned.
There has been good news though. China seems to have avoided a hard landing, and as a result, Fitch raised its GDP forecast to 6.3% from 6% for 2017. Commodity prices, while still volatile, seemed to have found a bottom for now as well. That's led to improvements in many countries, like Russia for example.
As for the Federal Reserve, it seems less focused on GDP growth and more focused on employment and inflation growth, the latter of which should see a boost from the recovery in oil prices, Coulton said.
Right now, it seems unlikely that the Fed will raise interest rates in June, but should be on track to hike in the second half of the year. "We do think they're going to do two more hikes this year," Coulton concluded.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.