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Mohamed El-Erian: The US economy looks 'good' for the 'next couple of years at least'

  • The IMF maintained its prediction of 2.9 percent growth for the U.S. this year, but reduced its 2019 American growth prediction from 2.7 percent to 2.5 percent in its World Economic Outlook published on Tuesday.
  • Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor for Allianz, said the IMF "is too pessimistic" about the world's largest economy.

  • "It wouldn't surprise me if we get 3 percent growth for this year and next year," he said of the U.S.

The U.S. economy is poised for growth that's better than the International Monetary Fund projects, and there's nothing on the domestic front that could knock it into a recession, according to one of the world's most closely followed economists.

Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic advisor for Allianz, told CNBC on Tuesday that the U.S. economy is "in a good place in terms of growth, the U.S. economy is in a good place in terms of attracting capital."

That stood in some contrast to the IMF, which maintained its prediction of 2.9 percent growth for the U.S. this year but reduced its 2019 American growth prediction from 2.7 percent to 2.5 percent in its World Economic Outlook published on Tuesday.

For his part, El-Erian said the IMF "is too pessimistic" about the world's largest economy.

"We've got three drivers of domestic demand all hitting at the same time: government spending which is going to get stronger, not weaker household spending, and business investment," he told CNBC's Nancy Hungerford at the Barclays Asia Forum in Singapore. "That takes the U.S. through the next couple of years at least, so it wouldn't surprise me if we get 3 percent growth for this year and next year."

El-Erian said that any disturbances to U.S. economic growth were likely to come from beyond its borders.

"We get to a recession if there are spillbacks from the rest of the world. The U.S. on its own need not have a recession," he said.

"Yes, this has been a very long expansion, but it's been a very slow expansion, so this is qualitatively different from what we've seen in the past. I think the concern is about the rest of the world," the chief economic advisor added.

'Sticks and not carrots'

The concern, according to El-Erian, "is about whether the U.S. gets spillbacks, either through its own action because it triggers a trade war as opposed to trades skirmishes or because we get major disruptions in Europe and in the emerging world."

Although some analysts are already calling the ongoing dispute, and tit-for-tat tariffs, between the U.S. and China a trade war," El-Erian emphasized that he did not see it as having yet reached that level. That was an opinion that echoed private equity billionaire David Rubenstein telling CNBC earlier Tuesday that "this trade dispute will be more of a skirmish, not a war."

Still, El-Erian stopped short of mirroring Rubenstein's prediction that the disagreement would get resolved before any meaningful damage was done. In fact, the Allianz chief economic advisor said there is a 25 percent chance of a trade war.

"Why so low? Because my assumption has been that China will understand what Korea, Mexico, Canada and the EU have understood," he said. "Which is: If the U.S. decides to focus on sticks and not carrots, and if the U.S. is willing to incur the cost of trade skirmishes, it wins. It wins every single bilateral trade conflict."

If that's the case, El-Erian said, then the "right" strategy for other countries is to "provide concessions early."

"Korea realized this, Mexico realized this, Canada realized this, the EU is realizing this, and my assumption: It's a matter of time until China realizes that," he added.

source: CNBC