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G.D.P. Posts 1.9% Rate as Trade Fight and Global Weakness Hit Economy


Grady Cope, founder and president of Reata Engineering, a design, tooling and production firm in Englewood, Colo., offered a guarded outlook.

“As business owners, we’re all a little bit scared of tariffs,” said Mr. Cope, whose company has a long list of multinational customers. “China is a huge part of the global economy and the only place where some parts can be made.”

Still, he said, “business has been good.”

“We see some customers slowing down,” he said, “but not as many as we were expecting based on stuff we were hearing last year.”

During the first three months of 2019, the economy confounded downbeat prognosticators and grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent.

As the temporary lift from tax cuts faded and hopes for a trade deal with China fell apart in the spring, growth slacked off in April, May and June. The annual rate shrank to 2 percent. Trade tensions and a slowing worldwide growth hit the manufacturing sector particularly hard. Exports fell and business investment slumped.

Worries about a recession thickened over the summer. Mr. Trump escalated his attacks on China and unleashed another round of retaliatory tariffs. Wall Street was particularly unsettled by quirky movements in the bond market that have usually been associated with recessions. Industrial activity around the globe stalled.

The manufacturing outlook has improved since then, and housing sales in the United States have picked up.

“The biggest risks to the economy today are uncertainty and complacency,” Cris deRitis, deputy chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in an analysis. “With political risks and uncertainty casting a shadow across economic regions” around the world, he added, “the potential for policy errors and significant global shocks may overwhelm solid economic fundamentals.”


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