Corporate America is Back, Top Economist Says

Corporate America has its swagger back because consumers are spending again. That was the upbeat message delivered in Dallas the other day by Joe Quinlan, the chief investment strategist for U.S. Trust, the private wealth management division of Bank of America.

Speaking to a select group of Bank of America Merrill Lynch clients at the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre, Quinlan said lending has resumed and U.S. mergers-and-acquisitions were up 25 percent in the first quarter. Meantime foreign money is pouring into U.S. equities, he said, and, despite the country’s official unemployment rate, “we don’t have enough [skilled, educated] workers for all the jobs.”

Quinlan’s generally bullish view–he predicted 3 percent GDP growth and “8 to 10 percent upside on the S&P”–was tempered by his concern about the federal government’s “trillion-dollar” budget deficit. “Our numbers look worse than Greece,” he said. “At some point, we can’t afford to live beyond our means.” The U.S. ran budget surpluses as recently as 1998-2001, he reminded the audience, adding, “Growth will help backfill the deficit. It’s up to corporations to step up and … and it’s up to government to reduce the deficit.”

Quinlan said he’s particularly high on emerging markets for U.S. exports (especially to India, Brazil, and Canada) and sectors including defense (“arms races are under way”), energy, and agriculture. “We’re going to pay more for food and energy,” he said. “What can we do about it? Frankly, nothing.”




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