Hurricanes Harvey and Irma might have a lasting effect on coastal regions of Texas and Florida, but they are unlikely to trigger a slowdown in the U.S. economy or weigh heavily on the Federal Reserve as it ponders a third interest rate hike this year.
There are three reasons for that, according to a new note by Goldman Sachs, which this week increased the probability of a rate-hike to 60%, up from its previous prediction of a 55% chance of an increase.
"First, several Fed officials have noted that any near-term hit is likely to be followed by a comparable boost from reconstruction," wrote analysts including Spencer Hill and Avisha Thakkar. "Second, while a hurricane related slowdown could cloud the data and raise doubts about the underlying pace of growth, strong recent momentum provides a buffer and Fed officials should be able to isolate hurricane effects in the data."
The third reason is based on precedent. Following Hurricane Katrina the Fed faced many of the same concerns as it does in the wake of the latest storms. It responded, in 2005, by cutting short-term growth expectations but increased its expectations for 2006 and subsequently raised rates.
Goldman Sachs expects that pattern to repeat this time around. It is predicting a hurricane-induced third-quarter dip in growth and has cut its target growth rate for the U.S. economy by 0.8 of a percentage point to 2%. But the bank is also predicting that the decline will be more than offset by a subsequent rebound and has raised its forecast growth by over 1% the subsequent three quarters.
There are likely to be some nervous moments along the way to that recovery. September payroll figures could miss forecast expectations by as much as 100,000, according to Goldman's analysts. That will add uncertainty to growth forecasts for at least two weeks until Florida and Texas publish state-level payrolls and unemployment data.
The twelve members of the Federal Open Market Committee are due to meet on September 19 and 20.