Sunday, April 21, 2024

Bezos points to tough times ahead in US economy

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has added his voice to the chorus of voices warning of hardship ahead for the US economy.

On social media, the billionaire wrote that the economy was sending a signal to “batten down the hatches”.

Growth in the US has already contracted for two quarters in a row, a milestone that in many countries – though not the US – is considered a recession.

As the US central bank raises interest rates to fight rising prices, many economists expect further slowdown.

The drumbeat of concern recently forced US President Joe Biden to address the issue.

In an interview last week, he said “I don’t think there will be a recession. If it is, it’ll be a very slight recession”.

In the US, a panel of economists is charged with declaring the formal start and end of recessions. They use a number of indicators, in addition to gross domestic product in making the determination.

With midterm elections looming in November, Biden has tried to make the case that the slowdown in economic activity is a healthy shift from the growth surge that followed the pandemic lockdowns.

Job creation remains robust, unemployment rates low, and households finances relatively healthy.

But as inflation has remained much higher than the 2% goal – hitting 8.2% last month – hopes that authorities will be able to get the issue under control without triggering a potentially severe slowdown have waned.

“We have got to get inflation behind us. I wish there were a painless way to do that. There isn’t,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last month.

Amazon, which will update investors later this month, has also been grappling with a slowdown in its e-commerce business. It has slowed hiring and said it is working to cut expenses.

Bezos stepped down as Amazon chief executive last year but remains chairman of its board. He has been critical of the president’s economic policies in the past, faulting Biden for being disingenuous about the forces driving prices higher. (BBC)

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