LIMERICK PA – One regional economist believes manufacturing jobs are poised to return to the U.S. because global financial events have made it more expensive for competing nations to export goods, local business owners and leaders learned Thursday (Jan. 5, 2012) during an economic forecast breakfast in Limerick PA.
Brian Hess, senior research analyst at Brandywine Global Investment Management, told guests at the TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce forum that rising wage costs in China combined with rising oil costs worldwide had narrowed the price gap between it, other countries and the U.S. in the race to sell durable consumer goods like appliances. The possibility for renewed competitiveness could spur manufacturing growth here, he said.
Hess and Derek Menaldino, chief investment officer of Main Line Financial Advisors in Pottstown PA, were featured panelists during an hour-long discussion of the coming year in business and finance, held at the Copperfield Inn at Lakeside.
Both focused their comments in reaction to results of a recent client poll undertaken by Main Line, in which its clients said they felt better about improvements in their own personal finances during 2011 even though they believed the global economy simultaneously worsened.
“Consumers look at the prices of things they buy, and feel better when cash is freed up in their own pocketbooks,” Menaldino said. Oil and food prices are major factors in personal expenses, he noted, and in the year just ended both were comparatively lower than those in 2009 and 2010. In that light, he added, “the global issues sort of fade away.”
Media reports on financial turmoil in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain certainly attracted public attention, Hess acknowledged. He said he was nonetheless “excited by prospects outside the U.S.,” where several governments with “very stable” economies were promoting investment opportunities with lower risk.
Other predictions from the pair:
- The pump price of gasoline is likely to hover between $3 and $3.50 for much of 2012;
- National economic growth will be somewhere between 2 and 2.5 percent for the year;
- Marcellus shale oil drilling will again have a significantly positive financial effect on Pennsylvania this year, and for several more years as well; and
- Job creation will be slight, and unemployment will remain high nationally, because the U.S. is still reeling in the “long hangover period” that follows a recession.