Getting comfortable with living on the edge

Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:17pm EST
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By Alan Wheatley, Global Economics Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Just as you learn to put up with a nagging toothache, this week is expected to provide fresh evidence that the U.S. economy is getting used to life on the edge of the fiscal cliff.

Of course, putting off that trip to the dentist is not necessarily wise. The longer Washington delays, the more painful it will become to narrow its gaping budget deficit.

But surveys of U.S. consumer confidence in January and of house builder sentiment in December are likely to show resilience, buttressing the argument of equity bulls that Wall Street's firm start to the year is more than a relief rally or a desperate search for higher returns on investment.

Bluford Puttnam, chief economist of CME Group, said the U.S. economy had managed to grow almost 2 percent last year and create about 1.8 million jobs despite stagnation in Europe, a slowdown in China and the deadlocked budget talks.

"So I see a lot of momentum going into 2013," Puttnam said. "If we can get past this fiscal cliff, the economy is poised to have a much more confident year."

Despite fiscal tightening, he said growth could reach 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent.

Puttnam said the next rounds in the budget battle later this quarter would again be bitterly fought and the resolution would again satisfy no one. But, as with the showdown at the end of 2012, the economy would quickly move on.

"There is a one-in-ten chance that the government may even shut down for a week. It's just going to be ugly. And then it will be over. There will be some kind of compromise, and by April it will fade quickly into the background," he said.   Continued...

Traders stand outside the New York Stock Exchange, in this file photo taken March 27, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer