Chamber in Session: State of the Economy Experts Predict Post-COVID Recovery

Three experts in the field of economics and forecasting joined Chamber members December 2 for Chamber in Session: State of the Economy, presented by The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business.

Fran Smitherman, CFA, Senior Vice President and Director of Equity Research, Regions Investment Management, spoke on the stock market, highlighting sectors that were doing well, and noting the S&P 500 is up over 13 percent year-to-date including dividends.

“Stocks are very smart and are great forecasters of the future,” Smitherman said. “There’s nothing like fundamental microdata; however, stocks look forward.”

Sectors that stood out included tech stocks, which are up 36 percent year-to-date. “People were already using tech to a greater extent, so that trend was already in place,” She said. “The trend has been exacerbated by the virus.”

Smitherman recommended “staying the course” with stocks, as experts like what they’re seeing.

Looking at macroeconomic conditions was Anoop Mishra, Regional Executive/Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Mishra said the United States was, at pre-pandemic levels, looking at 1.8 percent GDP growth for the year; however, that will now translate into 3 percent negative growth, resulting in a 5 percent impact on real GDP.

“We started off the year with the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years,” Mishra said. “The unemployment rate is now at 6.9 percent.”

Mishra said unlike the previous financial crisis, education and health care sectors have been impacted. He said the second half of 2022 may see us return to pre-pandemic levels of growth, however some sectors may recover faster, particularly if a COVID-19 vaccine is available quickly.

The outlook may not be as negative as anticipated, said John B. Norris V, Managing Director, Wealth and Investments, Oakworth Capital Bank. “We were already anticipating a slightly slower economy,” Norris said. “Looking at what will happen in 2021, there are a lot of tailwinds to consider. For example, low interest rates always help the consumer, and we have low energy prices.”

Like Mishra, Norris said it was important to have a vaccine available “sooner rather than later.”

The 2020 Chamber in Session: State of the Economy was presented by The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business.

The Gold Sponsor for the event was Embassy Suites Downtown Tuscaloosa.

Silver Sponsors were Shelton State Community College, the Tuscaloosa County Commission, and Whitesky Communications, LLC.

Bronze Sponsors were BBVA and the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors.

Table Sponsors were Alabama Credit Union, Alabama ONE, Bryant Bank, BankFirst, City of Tuscaloosa, Community Service Programs of West Alabama, First South Farm Credit, JamisonMoneyFarmer PC, Raymond James & Associates, Regions Bank, SmartBank, Synovus, University of Alabama System, Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports, The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, the West Alabama Regional Commission.