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S&P: Get ready for Fed tapering of asset purchases

Analyst says December start likely

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All eyes will be on the Fed Wednesday when the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee releases its December update.

At least one of those watchers – Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist for Standard & Poor’s Rating Services – predicts the Fed will announce a reduction in its asset purchases, beating out forecasts of a start to the taper in March. 

Bovino’s prediction for a final end to all Fed asset acquisitions also is rather aggressive, with the economist saying a complete "end to Fed asset purchases" could occur as early as the third quarter of 2014.

Of course, Bovino is coming out on the other side when comparing her forecast to prior analysts, who have put tapering as far off as March.

Bovino revealed her 2014 forecast Monday. The report predicts gross domestic product will grow 2.6% next year with private-sector strength offsetting any market troubles caused by government uncertainty.

The year 2013 brought three fiscal shocks, which hurt S&P’s fiscal forecast for this year by 1.7%, the ratings firm said.

Those market shocks included sequestration cuts in federal spending, the government shutdown and a standoff over raising the nation’s debt ceiling to avoid a default, Bovino pointed out.

And despite those headwinds, the private sector remained strong, pulling the economy along – albeit at a tepid pace at times.

Bovino writes, "a resilient private sector has kept the world’s biggest economy afloat."

She added, "We expect real GDP growth for 2013 to come in at about 1.7%; the underlying economic momentum from the private sector held up rather well."

S&P says private-sector spending probably grew by 2.6% in 2013, while fed government spending retreated by 4.7%.

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